Sun Zi Art of War (Sun Tzu) in One Minute

Sun Zi’s Arts of War is so famous that need little introduction. Many translations and applications to business are available. In Business as War is Half the Truth, I presented business is more a love affair with customers than a war between competitors. Customers is prime concern with competitors are reference for the customers. But since it is a book not just about warfare but about creating organization that are agile and powerful, we need to pay much attention to it. Sun Zi teaches you how to knock-out your competitors but miss one key element of business – how to win over your customers.  For that, wining customers, you may need to read my posts on innovations. Nevertheless, Sun Zi teaches us how to build a successful and powerful organization.

The book was very well written and organized. It started with overview and then expand the points in greater details later. It is a book that explains itself. It gave terms and then explain what the terms mean and then how to apply them. It clearly shows the system mindedness of the author.

If there be shortage of time, one just needs to read the first chapter (there are 13 chapters) on planning. It gives the complete overview and the main strategy of war. I summarized the book in the following mind-map.

Overview of Sun Zi’s Arts of War

Because my English translation may not capture the full meaning of the original Chinese, I keep the original Chinese text for comparison by those who know the language well. In the mind-map above, the orange color box with R: x:y represents the Chapter x and Verse y of the original text so that reader can quickly find the original verse or chapter to read for himself.

Warfare is a matter of utmost importance as it affects the survival of the country. It is divided into 4 main parts:

  1. Five Factors to manage well.
    1. Mission & Values (Leadership and Organization) – original word is Dao, the Right Way (of Heaven). Can be translated as shared philosophy. For business, I use the narrow and more common terms of mission, vision, values or in today popular usage, the right culture of the organization. The culture must be right else the organization cannot be successful.
    2. Seasons, Trends and Timing.
    3. Terrain or Positioning
    4. Commanders (their qualities and capabilities)
    5. Laws or Policies
  2. Appraise, or audit, or do a health check on Seven-Measures.
    1. The seven measures are related to the five factors. It is the extent and success of the five factors and the morale and capability of the men. More details are given in mind-maps that follow.
    2. This scoring or assessment system is like the Singapore Quality Awards or Deming Awards.
  3. Appraise the Situation by looking at the measures, and make comparison with the enemies’ so that we can arrive at a conclusion on the probability of winning.
    1. Individual scoring is of not much use. It must be compared against the scoring our competitors (the enemies) to reveal our relative strength or weaknesses and then deriving the right strategies.
    2. This is like doing the SWOT analysis well – deriving strategies to ride on the opportunities, overcome or convert the threats into opportunities.
    3. A key principle is to know the enemy/competitors and to know oneself.
  4. A list of Good Strategies and tactics.
    1. Sun Zi tells us the main strategy of war against the enemy is by surprising the enemy, and this is main achieved by deception. Deception is achieved with the “Invert” operator. Making strong look weak; weak to appear strong etc (Sun Zi provides quite a list).
    2. Sun Zi also covers the strategies exploit the five factors above.
    3. There is not one right strategy or pattern for all situations. The KEY is to be agile, flexible and adaptable to exploit the situations.
    4. There are also strategies in the use of fire (in today terms, may be artillery or air raids) and the use of spies (espionage) to collect intelligence and to give false information to misled the enemy.

Sun Zi stresses a lot on planning before action. Planning that are based on facts, situations, intelligences on the enemy, and then try to gain advantages over the enemy. Early probing and careful planning provide decisive committed action at the right time and place to gain a win in the shortest possible time. Posturing of Power 势(accumulation of strength) and then a decisive control 节 release at the right time is key to early success.  Lack of power or releasing too early or late are bad.

More details on Sun Zi’s Art of War will follow in future.

Here is the Index of Sun Tzu’s Art of War:

  1. Sun Zi Art of War (Sun Tzu) in One Minute
  2. Sun Zi Art of War-2: How to Manage the Five Factors Well
  3. Sun Zi Art of War-3: Health Check with 7 Measures
  4. Sun Zi Art of War-4: Appraisal & Prediction
  5. Sun Zi Art of War-5: The Principles for Good Strategies
  6. Sun Zi Art of War-6: Leadership Skills and Creating HPO

Copyright of Bvotech 2010

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2 thoughts on “Sun Zi Art of War (Sun Tzu) in One Minute

  1. I read few of your blogs and found them interesting specially on Sun Zi… yet to read the innovation bit.

    Thank you for the good piece of writings, I look forward for your blogs.

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