As such, a victorious army ensures that it will win before going into battle. A defeated army engages in battle first and then look for victory.
Previously, we explored crafting the mission statement as an organizational purpose (Sandra’s blog). We also looked at the importance of aligning organizational change initiatives to mission statements (Allison’s blog). This week we’ll use the Art of War as a foundation for mission critical strategies to secure wins. Sun Tzu’s Art of War (AoW) reveals military strategy and tactics for leaders to create opportunities or maneuver under ever-shifting conditions. Facing a similar need to address constant change, the business community has come to embrace Sun Tzu’s approach.
Consider the following common situations and how AoW insights can apply to your experience:
Morale – Sun Tzu aptly summarized “At the beginning of a campaign, the spirits of the forces are high. As the campaign progresses, the spirits of the forces become sluggish and lethargy builds. Towards the end of the campaign, thoughts of closure will set in.” (AoW Chapter 7 Maneuvers)
Run the marathon not a sprint. Whether it is a yearly business-mission revision or a change development, we’re in it for the long-haul to build supporting operations. In other words, it’s a protracted campaign. Enthusiasm (ours or our team’s) fuels the early stages of activities as the prospects of glory or success energizes us. Gradually, that fervor may slacken and with it morale declines. Fatigue is often displayed through frustration and impatience. Towards the tail end of the program, folks wander off in search of rest and closure. To maintain momentum, consider:
Psychology – Sun Tzu would respond with “Use orderliness and stability to confront chaos and disorder. Use calmness and steadfastness to deal with noisiness and clamor.” (AoW chapter 7 Maneuvers)
Calm the storm. Drawing on orderliness to offset chaos, and calmness to counter noise is not as abstract as it sounds. SunTzu articulated clearly throughout AoW that one can still secure victory with a small but focused unit of resources. To achieve order, incorporate:
Feasibility – Sun Tzu cautioned “The wise strategist always weigh and consider both favorable and unfavorable factors in his deliberations. By factoring the favorable factors, the mission can be accomplished with confidence. By factoring the unfavorable factors, the disasters and crisis can be averted.” (AoW chapter 8 Variations and Adaptability)
Turn adversity to advantage. Either paralysis or eagerness would be unwise. Careful deliberations account for:
Leaders, adapt these three AoW strategic pointers (on morale, psychology, feasibility) into your program planning and developments to achieve your advantages.
“The business environment is akin to battlegrounds” (Asian proverb). I’ll close this blog with a clip from Band of Brothers, The Breaking Point – Foy as a parallel to organizational programs we may have experienced. Can you associate the AoW pointers with the scenes?
Reference: AoW phrases adopted in part or in full from Sunzi, Wee C. H. (2003). Sun Zi Art of War: An Illustrated Translation with Asian Perspectives and Insights. Pearson Prentice Hall, wherein quotes are translated from the original text.