April 13, 2024

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Sun Tzu Art of War – Five Ways of Securing Victory

There are five ways to predict victory. He who knows when to launch an attack and when not to will win. He who knows when to vary the size of his troops according to battle situations will win. He who is able to unite his whole army as one will win. He who is well-prepared and far-sighted and awaits his enemy will win. He who is capable and does not have to contend with the interference of his ruler will win. These are the five ways to decide if a victory can be secured. – Chapter Three, Sun Tzu Art of War.

As seen in the above lines, there are circumstances when one can secure victory. And they are:

1) The general knows when to attack and when not to attack. Such a general would be able to engage his enemies when there are higher odds of victory, thus does not worn out his troops easily and reduce the burden of war on the nation.

Business Application

Applying this to business is, the management needs to know when to take action and when not to take action on certain decisions they have made. For instance, maybe a new factory is in the plans but building it where and when is important because a factory is a fixed assets and a wrong move could affect the cashflow of the company. Moreover, the factory can only add manufacturing capacity to the company after a certain time lag.

2) The general must know when to vary the size of his troops according to the battle situations. Knowing what the ideal size of troops is for each battle situations would be able to reduce the resources and provision needed for the military campaign, again this would reduce the burden on the nation. The general must also know what type of troops to bring as well.

Business Application

The leader in a particular department or team should be able to know the strengths and weaknesses of each and every individual in his department or team. From there, he should know who will complete each individual project with the best result, which person should partner with who so as to achieve synergy. This form of human resource management would be analogous to management of troops during military campaign.

3) The general who is able to unite his whole army as one will win. As mentioned in the first chapter of Sun Tzu Art of War, it is mentioned that unity is one the determining factor of the success execution of strategy.

Business Application

This is straightforward. Again we see the mentioning of unity again. So the team leader needs to unite his whole team. If the team is not united, synergy cannot be created and worse, the skills of individuals may not be able to bring out the best result because of constant bickering.

4) The general should be well prepared and far-sighted and awaits his enemy. The far-sighted general would be able to anticipate and use to his advantage, the surprises enemies want to spring on them. This would render his enemies’ plans ineffective, which is the first and best form of strategic attack as mentioned in the same chapter.

Business Application

In all businesses, planning and execution of plans are part and parcel of every work day. So in businesses, the one who is far-sighted and detailed in their planning has higher odds of success in reaching their goals. The more detailed you are in your plans, you would be able to anticipate and resolve any emergencies that the volatile business environment presents. A far-sighted general would also be able to thwart any plans or counter strategies his rival execute rendering them useless. As mentioned in Leadership, Rudolph W. Giuliani was able to plan out all contingencies plan for any emergency that happen to New York City, for example, he has contingency plans for Sarin Gas attack in the subway, bombings and building collapse.

5) The general does not have the ruler interfering on every decision he made during the military campaign. Because no matter how capable a general is, if the ruler interferes with the general’s orders and planning, the general would be equivalent to working with his hands tied up. He would not be able to do his best because his best has been limited by the ruler.

Business Application

So as mentioned, you have the foresight of hiring the best talents that is available for the position, but have you ‘handcuffed’ the talented personnel? Have you given him the room to explore his best or the organization culture has placed limitations on him? Check out your company’s systems and culture. Give your talents room to grow and explore.