12 Success Principles from Chinese 36-Strategies

The Chinese 36-Strategies, some called it, 36-Tactics are well known and gainfully employed in military, business and politics. They usually have a bad connotation associated with it – dirty tricks. But if we examine them carefully, they are powerful strategies that can be used for good or evil.  Good as building a successful businesses and bad as destroying the competitions or enemies through deception and lies.  In a just and legal society, lies are bad and could be liable and criminal acts are not be done. In other words, we can use the 36 Strategies in a right, truthful and legal ways.

The 36-Strategies have the following interesting points (Please refer to the mind map attached):

  1. The Name of the Strategy is just 3-4 Chinese Words that gives a vivid picture of what to do for that strategy.
  2. There is a commentary on what the strategy means. The 2nd part of the commentary is a quote from a hexagram in  i-Ching.  This shows that the authorship comes after i-Ching and it is an extension of i-Ching teaching.
  3. From Form to Concept. The picture while vivid, may actually trapped our thinking. Hence, we need to abstract the form to the original concept of the strategy. The picture is just one form, an implementation of the concept. There could be other forms that we should adapt to our present situation.

36 Strategies are too many to grasp and apply. The original text divided them into 6 segments with 6 strategies each  I find them not too clear, and at best may be can be divided into winning (covering winning, engaging and advancement), confusing and lost 3 main segments. I prefer to regroup them into 12 principles and place them in order of starting a new and/or growing a business. It begins with probing (situational analysis), watch for the opportunities, exploiting the opportunities and so forth as shown in the mind map below. I will explain the individual strategies in clearer terms in the future. But I think the mind map speaks volume already. Hope you can benefit from it.

36 Strategies by Types

Lim Liat copyrighted April 2011

Sun Zi Art of War-6: Leadership Skills and Creating HPO

I thought I have covered Sun Tzu (Sun Zi) Art of War well with just 5 postings. But I felt I needed to cover one more important area, Leadership Skills or Leadership Principles to bring out the point that the ‘Art of War’ is more than just strategies for war. It is first about the building of High Performance Force or Organization(HPO) if I have not made it clear enough in the first 3 posts.

Leaders hold the greatest responsibility for creating the mission and culture for a High Performance Organization. Hence, let me cover the leadership skills from Sun Zi with the following mind-map:

Five Qualities of a Leader

  1. Wisdom – knowledge, skills, capability, competence
  2. Integrity – walk the talk, deliver promises, trust worthy, ethical.
  3. Compassion – love and care of staff and even of their families.
  4. Bravery – Boldness. Bravery is not recklessness. Bravery is acting on calculated risks.
  5. Strict-Discipline.
    Let me emphasize that the set of values listed above are counter balancing one another (as mentioned in Sun Zi Art of War-2: How to Manage the Five Factor). Compassion must be moderated with strict discipline and vice versa. So it with wisdom and integrity, bravery and wisdom, wisdom with discipline (be flexible when needed) etc. See Complementary Values from Chinese Zodiac Signs for a longer list.

What are Stronger than Number?
To a good leader, strength in number is not something to count on. Big market leading companies are dethroned by start-ups. Here are the Five things that are stronger.

  1. Alignment – shared mission and values provide concentration and focus of laser sharp cutting strength. Read my posts on Corporation Performance Management (CPM). Kaplan & Norton’s Strategic Map Driven Balanced Scorecard method is a great framework to follow to create focused and aligned corporation.
  2. Foreseeing Enemy’s actions or reactions – In the business world, I will translate to mean the ability to understand and foresee the trends in the market, customers preferences, industry, technology, social, environmental, economic and political situations.
  3. Getting Commitment of Staff – Highly engaged and motivated staff are key to corporate growth and performance. Happy employees creates happy customers who in turn rewards the corporation with money and loyalty.
  4. Detailed & Careful Planning with Agility – As covered in previous posts, Sun Zi believed in planning on real data, of weather, terrain, staff and enemy’s intelligence. Sun Zi also teaches about agility and flexibility to adapt and exploit changes.
  5. Humility – Never Under-estimate the Enemy – Our customers and our competitors are no fools. They can tell our ‘lies’ and ‘spins’. With social media, one ‘small’ customers can create great impact. Don’t assume our competitors are dump or dead that will not react or pro-act against us. Continued learning and innovation is the key to long term survival and growth.

Love & Discipline
The strongest motivating force for people is still LOVE – I Care about you. It must be demonstrated and not just spoken of. Yet love is not indulgence. Standards need to set and discipline need to be enforced.

The order is important – love first and then set standard. Discipline without love will produce temporary and on the surface following of commands. Deep down in the heart is the feeling of misused, abused, bitterness, anger and will create sabotaging whenever there is opportunity.

Lead by Example
Leaders must walk their talk. Best form of teaching is not by instruction but by example. This is the teaching of Lao Zi, teaching without talking! see The Tao Bible in One minute and Levels of Leadership – Which Level are Yours?.

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

BVOTECH copyrighted 2011