30 December 2017

Getting Agreement Despite the Differences - Gui Gu Zi's Wisdom#8 C6 忤合

Getting agreement despite the differences is the key to building large projects and maintaining good relationships. Here are the keys to mediation, facilitation and negotiation. Always keep the options open and relationship nice despite the disagreement at present because changes in situations over time may make an agreement possible. We learn such wisdom from Gui Gu Zi Chapter 6 忤合 Against & Agreement.
Converting Enemy to Friend
Sun Zi tells us that winning every time is not the best strategy! The best strategy is to win without a fight. There is no loss of men nor of resources.
  • Sun Zi 3v3 是故百战百胜,非善之善也;不战而屈人之兵,善之善者也。 Hence, hundreds of battles and hundred victories are the best of all. Without any battle and able to subdue the enemy is the best of all.
One way of doing that is to build yourself up such that you are so strong that all others are willing to follow and surrender to your leadership. Even so, you have to alert all the time because you don't know when your enemy may find the opportunity to attack you. So, a better way than that is to convert your enemy to a friend. You win not by power but you win the heart of your enemy.

The Bible tells us a similar concept, love your enemy. By loving your enemy, you may gain his heart and he becomes your friend. You become the "More than Conqueror". (See The Meaning of "More than Conquerors")

Lao Zi in DaoDeJing 68 shows us the same concept of making friends out of your enemies as in The Utmost Winner - More than a Conqueror.

So you can see the better strategy is about making friends, getting agreements and support in the execution of the agreement. Here are the guides from Gui Gu Zi.

The Keys:
  1. Observe & Find the Fit in Changing Situations
  2. Plan with Purpose and Scope
  3. Consider the Interests of All Stakeholders
  4. Test and Discover the Match
  5. Know the Comparative Strengths and Weaknesses of Others and Ourselves and move accordingly.
1 Observe & Find the Fit in Changing Situations
  • Whether to break or to form a partnership, there is always a right way to do it. Hence find it and do it well. Always keeping the relationship nice even if there is a need to part away.
  • There are cyclical or serial changes, with each having their own characteristics and particularity, mutual dependencies, hence we have to plan accordingly to the situations. It is seldom one size fits all.
  • Here are the factors to watch out for:
    • how things meet together
    • to observe the seasons and trends. Is it the right time?
    • according to the sizes, should it be more or less? That's the scope too.
    • must know them before your planning and execution.
    • convert them to your benefits whenever possible. There is always opportunity in threats and risks in opportunity.
2 Plan with Purpose and Scope
  • In the world, nothing stays valuable and be dominant forever. With every change, there comes the opportunity or threats.
  • The wise men never give all the time and yet he is seen giving all the time. How come? Give where the needs are. Giving without needs is show-off and waste. The wise men never listen to all and yet seems to know all. They listen objectively and without prejudices and hence understand the key issues.
  • The can only be one objective. If you agree with this one you will disagree with another. There are always for and against. We can recall what Jesus said in Matthew 6:24 "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate one and love other... You cannot serve both God and money." So we must prioritize and pick the most important one as the objective and the rest as sub-objectives to serve the main objective. In Jesus' case, you use the money to serve God.
  • Decide the scope of your plan. Set boundaries and so you can plan for the right amount of resources and make sure no scope creeps in the execution.
  • Your plans must be sold to the top management and the people who are involved. So follow the principles taught in Chapter 4 Bait to Catch.
3 Consider the Interests of All Stakeholders
  • In the old times, those who were good at handling rebellions first get alliances across the four seas. They understand the grounds of objections and agreements of the feudal lords and innovate a new way for an agreement to be made.
  • A good book to read about this is Stephen Covey's "The 3rd Alternative". It is not mine nor your ways but the way that meets the needs and desires of all.
4 Test and Discover the Match
  • We can find out as much as we can about a person or a company. But eventually, the best way to know is to work with and for one. We need to take the time to do experiments first hand to find out. Gui Gu Zi cites two persons that took three to five times working for different leaders before finally making up their mind to be devoted to one. They found their match - agreement in mission and values.
5 Know the Comparative Strengths and Weaknesses of Others and Ourselves and move accordingly.
  • The methods of achieving success for others may not be applicable to you. It works for them but may not work for you. The reasons are simple. They are different from you and are in a different situation from you. There is no short-cut to success but the following are key factors:
    • Wisdom to manage. Learn and acquire as much as you can.
    • Think hard. The answer could not be obvious. It is good that it is not. Else others will know and do them already.
    • Study the Situations.
    • Obtain quality resources including the talents.
    • Know Others well.
    • Evaluate, Compare with Others in the Situations and make the right choice where your abilities become strengths and theirs become weaknesses. You need to find out whether you should advance or withdraw, to partner with this or that groups. 

Diversities make for not just an interesting world but also great opportunities to partner together to accomplish great things. Success in life is about knowing people and partnering with the right ones against others in the right place and at the right time. It is much better than trying to win against them all the time. Hope you can benefit from this post and apply them in your partnership and as the needs arise, know how to facilitate, negotiate, and mediate.

One more thing...
In this chapter, Gui Gu Zi added the responsibility of the wise sages. He names five:
  1. to build oneself up to be independent
  2. to manage and impact the world
  3. to teach others
  4. to speak out and promote
  5. to let the truth/wisdom to shine brightly
So after you have found the right way to work co-operatively with others, please teach others to do too.

All the very best for a joyful New Year 2018

Lim Liat (c) 30 Dec 2017

Prev: Catching & Retaining Talents - Gui Gu Zi's Wisdom#7 C5 飞箝 Fishing
Next: Actions For Your Planning - Gui Gu Zi's Wisdom#9 C7 揣篇 Appraisal

After I shared this post on FaceBook, a friend pointed out the inevitability of competition and the consequences of winners and losers.

I made the following reply:

Thank you very much for your comments. It helps me to reflect on my post. 

Speaking very broadly, there are two kinds of mindsets, one believes in a fixed size cake and hence they concentrate on dividing the cake. The other one believes in enlarging the cak
e and hence spend time working with others to enlarge the cake.

In practice, Toyota works closely with its subcontractors, helping them with technology, sharing their plans and schedules, and have a much more efficient and effective supply chain. GM, on the other hand, believes in competition, lowest prices win, and hence ends up with frequent changes in subcontractors, different ways of working, etc. The result is obvious.

TRIZ, the Russian innovative methods adopted by leading MNCs says that innovation is about breaking contradictions, or in our terms, compromises. e.g. Speakers to have good sound must be big and heavy. XMI, a Singapore firm, breaks this compromise by coming out with their thumb-sized speakers X-mini, which can give good quality sound at a very small size. It becomes quite a success. It is something we thought our Creative Technology should have come out. But they are trapped by their belief in the physical contradiction of size and quality of sound.

Singtel and Starhub competing for the rights for FootBall sports program resulting in Singapore paying extra charges, compared with other countries so much so that the gov has to step in to stop such 'silliness' that sacrifices our people benefits.

In Sun Zi's Art of War, one of the five factors for winning is Unity from top to bottom. A strategy to destroy the enemy is "When they are united, cause divisions and fights among them".

When we read the "Future of Management" from the western management gurus are about self-management, self-directed, and “leaderless” organization. See e.g. https://www.zapposinsights.com/about/holacracy.

10 December 2017

The Treasures of the Art of War - Emotion

Decision making can and should involve the emotions of the people affected but should never be done emotionally by the decision maker. --- Lim Liat's distillation of Sun Zi's Art of War.
Just reading from the original text of the Sun Zi's Art of War without a deeper reflection will not help you master the Art of War. Only by integrating and distilling the whole book would you truly learn and apply them wisely in your work.

Original Quotes:

The Disasters of Acting Because One is Angry:
12v16. No ruler should start a war because he is angry. No general should attack because he is upset.
17. Move only because there are benefits to gain. Stop because there are no more benefits.
18. Anger over time can change to happiness. Upset can become satisfaction over time.
19. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed cannot be re-established; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.
20. Hence the wise ruler is prudent, and the good general watchful. This is the way to keep a country at peace and the army intact.

Emotion as a Factor in Planning:

In fact, getting the enemy to be angry is a way to win over him as in 1v23 If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him.

9v30 If the officers are angry [with the general], it means that the men are weary

9v35 If the enemy’s troops march up angrily and remain facing ours for a long time without either joining the battle or taking themselves off again, the situation is one that demands great vigilance and circumspection [since it may be a ruse].

The anger of the Middle Management: 
One of 6 Types of Sickness of a Failing Organization - Collapse

10v18 When the higher officers are angry and insubordinate, and transfer their anger on the enemy they meet and engage in battle with them before the general can decide whether he is able, this is called collapse.

The kind of Commitment and Devotion you want:

11v25. Hence, the men without training are disciplined, without demanding are all ready, without contracts are all closely knitted, without any order they are trusted.

How, by loving, but not indulgencing, them:

10v28. Regard your men as your children, and they will follow you into the deep rivers; treat them as your own beloved children, and they will even die with you. 29. However, if you are so forgiving so that you could not command them; so loving that they don’t follow your orders, then they are just like spoilt children, and they are useless.

And by using the situational factors as in 11v21-26 to get the devotion in 11v26 above.

So, don't make any decision when you are in an emotionally charged state, either with anger or remorse. Yet, you must calmly and objectively take into considerations the emotions and feelings of the people involved in the plans that you are going to execute. You must gain the hearts and not just the mind of the people who are executing the plans.

Lim Liat (c) 10 Dec 2018

03 December 2017

Jesus' Teaching and Sun Zi's Art of War

Great people teaching us the same thoughts show the power of the thoughts. Here we quote from Jesus to show that Sun Zi's Art of War teaching is right on the spot.

Sun Zi started his famous book on "The Art of War" by saying warfare is a matter of life and death and must, therefore, be carefully planned and calculated right at the start. Later, he said, "Winners plan first to win and then start the war whereas the losers start a war and then plan to win". Such a plan to win mindset is also taught by Jesus in Luke 14. Let's examine it:

1. Count First - Enough money to complete it?

Luk 14:28  For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
Luk 14:29  Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,
Luk 14:30  Saying, This man began to build and was not able to finish.

You don't start a project only to find out later that you don't have the fund to complete it. You have in fact wasted the money.

2. Compute First - Can I win against a larger force?

A clearer illustration that parallels the Art of War is given in:

Luk 14:31  Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?

Luk 14:32  Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. 

We learn the following important principles of Warfare:

  1.  Plan and Calculate to see if we can win first.

  2. You can win a larger force if you know how.

    The revealing part of Jesus' story is considering whether the smaller 10,000 force is still able to win against the larger, twice the size, 20,000 forces. Jesus did not give the idea that the larger size force will surely win. It was an open question. The answer can be yes or not. It depends on how you fight!

    Sun Zi's Art of War is precisely about how to win against, even a larger force.
    Jesus did not show us how because in the context, winning against the larger force is not the purpose of his teaching but counting the costs before making a commitment to be His disciple was. Plan first so that you don't have to give-up halfway.

    Art of War 9v36 兵非贵益多也,惟无武进,足以并力料敌取人而已
    Having a larger force does not bring benefits, only don't be reckless to advance, but to know how to concentrate your forces, predict the enemy, and get support from your staff to overcome can capture the enemy.
  3.  Strategize and Act Objectively and Accordingly.

    Wise men make decisions based on facts and calculation with risks taken into consideration. Jesus tells us that we should follow our factual evaluation and take the right action. In the case, if we can't win, then we negotiate for a peace treaty.

    Sun Zi tells us that winning every war is not the best. The best is to win without a war. The enemy surrenders and follows your terms. There is no destruction of resources and you effectively take over all the resources. So Sun Zi gives a prioritized strategy for the war. The best is win by strategy, next by alliances and negotiation, next to fight in the open, and the worse is having to attack a fortified castle.

    This is exactly what Jesus taught here. If you can't win your enemy by strategy, then at least go to negotiate the best terms for peace.
  4.  Do it as early as possible. Never wait until the last moment.

    Not that the computed outcome is clear, we should take the action as early as possible, "yet a great way off".  The earlier you take action, the greater the range of options. You can enjoy the better-negotiated result. That's why Air-tickets are cheaper the earlier you commit before your day of travel.

    Sun Zi emphasized must on taking speedy actions.

    Art of War 2v17. 故兵贵胜,不贵久。
    Hence, winning is the top priority, and having a long and lengthy campaign is not.

    Art of War 2v5. 故兵闻拙速,未睹巧之久也。
    Hence, we heard of defective but quick action, and skillfulness has never been associated with long delays.
The Winners Mindset - The Teaching of the Art of War

Here we can easily pick up four principles for winning:
  1. Plan 1st to win before taking any action.
  2. You can beat a larger force is you read the Art of War.
  3. Be objective and act on the computed result. Don't let it be an emotional prejudiced decision.
  4. Act decisively and Quickly.
Lim Liat (c) 3 Dec 2017