Sun Tzu is an ancient text which provides us the knowledge about the art of War. This ancient text appeared 2500 years ago by Sun Tzu and his father, his teacher also, who had command over military strategy. This book is interpreted in the context of leaders and business competition. This text further contributes towards the art of war. Sun Tzu considers the importance of leader in his text. He further provided the dominating factors in a leader: information, preparation, organization, communication, motivation, and execution.
According to Chinese Philosophy character is the Formation of leadership, as described in the book. Sun Tzu gives us the concept of “Natural Organization”. This deals with three most important factors for his army. First, they have to serve a defined purpose. Second, they are information-centered to deal with uncertainty. Third, these organizations are completely flexible and totally adoptable, because they have to respond quickly according to environmental change. Sun Tzu describes his principles as: learn to fight, show the way, do it right, know the fact, expect the worst, seize the day, burn the bridges, do it better, pull together, keep them guessing.
Learn to Fight: We cannot learn much how to compete. If fight took place to win or to be prominent then it is damaging. Fight should take place for important gains, or when one is in danger. Our emotions must not govern our emotions. If it happens then competitor may use it as a damaging tool against you. Show the way: Leadership alone determines success. According to Confucius teaching leaders must have seven characteristics: self-discipline, purpose, accomplishment, responsibility, knowledge, laddership, and example.
Self-discipline: set of rules. Purpose: Work to achieve objectives. Accomplishment: achieving the need of leader’s constituent. Responsibility: ownership of the outcomes of his decisions and actions. Knowledge: leader must strive to improve his understanding and ability. Laddership: Leader works co-operatively with his constituents to reach agreed-upon objectives. Example: Shows the way by his own actions. Confucius also mentioned the flaws in a character which destroys the element of leadership: recklessness, timidity, emotionalism, egoism, and over-concern for popularity.
Do it right: planning is important, but actions are the source of success. Winners do the right things at the right movement. Move when it is profitable and stop when it is not. Know the facts: to achieve success, you must manage information. Information or lack of information, determines the probability of success. There are two factors of managing information: gathering information and giving it out. Collect the information to make right decisions and give out information to mislead the competitor. Sun Tzu prefers to use spies and agents to gather first hand information. Intelligence activities are important and necessary to control the situation. Success in battlefield depends on the knowledge and use of statistics. Expect the worst: it refers to counter strategy. Preparation for counter attacks must be second top priority. Don’t tackle difficult problems when adequate resources are not available. Even with superior strategy you will be defeated if you lack resources. Competitor must not be under estimated. Expect the worst in order to succeed. Seize the day: quick victory is the aim of competitive actions. Simple methods are affective and inexpensive. Strategies that waste time and exhaust resources never work well. Successful strategies avoid difficult methods and seek easy ways. Burn the bridges: motivation and commitment are the keys to leadership. Don’t tell the constituent about the risk; rather grip those clearly defined goals and valuable rewards. Treat people well. Train them thoroughly. This heading clearly states that motivation and training for constituent is essential.
Do it better: in war there are two types of tactics, expected and unexpected. Unexpected tactics are innovative in nature. Such innovative tactics cannot be defended easily. Minor improvements can make a significance difference in performance. Pull together: organization, training and communication are the foundation of success. When expectations are clear and organization structure is appropriate so people will trust the leader. They will follow you even in the crucial times. Good training leads to common understanding, and common understanding leads to good communication. Keep them guessing: if your strategy is a mystery then it cannot be counter acted. As a result competitor will be forced to react after your taken action. To get control see something your competitor needs.
Sun Tzu the Art of War for Executive has been divided in thirteen chapters. The first chapter is ‘Planning’. It is essential that your actions must be carefully planned and properly executed. There are five basics which give appraisal to a plan: character, climate, structure, leadership, and information. You must influence your constituent with your characters so that they will follow your lead. This will help you in achieving your goals successfully. Climate refers to the impact of political culture on the competitive situation. To be effective, actions must be conducted in the appropriate time and climate. Structure must be organized and well-managed. Finance is a top issue in an organization. Training and skills should be given with the reference to technology and human resource. Structure determines the basic capabilities of an individuals or an organization. Structure includes fashion, technology, labor and martial, barriers to entry, key personnel, financial structures and some other factors. Leadership flows from the attitudes and abilities of individuals. Seven factors of outstanding leadership have already been mentioned in detail: self-respect, purpose, accomplishment, responsibility, knowledge, laddership and example. Information refers to acquiring facts. Everyone may know well that which plan may work. Try to adopt and change your policy continuously. In a plan public interest should be top concern. Provide better facilities to public. Meet the needs of public. Confuse the competitors with innovative ideas. The best plan must be executed well; otherwise it will be totally ineffective and useless. Think hard about how you can benefit others from your service. With careful plan, one can predict which action offer greater opportunities. Superior executive can turn greater opportunities in to ultimate victory.
Second chapter is ‘Competitive Action’. Personal and organizational resources are support to competitive actions. Resources must be available before action is taken. If a struggle is continued for a long time without results people will be exhausted so will the resources. Competitive actions require creativity, commitment, enthusiasm and finances. Those strategies which waste time and exhaust resources don't work. In competitive actions sometimes there are flaws as well. But only those who appreciate the knowledge gained from failure can achieve lasting success. Corporate staff is also a blessing in an organization. Competitive actions also require information. Information must have internal or external knowledge. Valuable rewards should be distributed among employees to capture the spirit. Openly reward those who provide outstanding service.
‘Competitive strategy’ is the next chapter. It is obvious that every competitive action can be most terrific ones if based on competitive strategies. Secure your resources and spend it on your research and innovative projects. Executives are leaders determining the survival of an organization. If a leader is smart and courageous he and his organization will surely prosper and grow. But if a leader is passive and weak he and his organization will surely die. Success or failure is determined by leadership alone. High rank executives can cause trouble in three ways, firstly a leader who is ignorant; secondly a leader, who focuses on rules instead of public; thirdly, promoting those without skill and courage. There are five major points to win: leader who knows when to fight and when to retreat will win. A leader who uses his resources to the challenging situation will win. A leader who is enthusiastic and innovative will win. A leader who uses accurate, timely information to make decisions will win. A leader who is not burden by burdensome rules will win.
‘Positioning’ is the heading of fourth chapter. Positioning is all about taking the actions at first. Victory results from taking the initiative and acting at the right moment. A great general establishes his position where he cannot be defeated. He exploits the weakness of his enemy. Elements of strategy are: measurement, estimation, calculation, comparison and victory. If resources were limited then we must choose defensive approach. To control a situation through emotions does not show superior ability. Neither does winning the heated argument in a public place shows superior ability. A winning executive creates a condition of victory by taking initiative. In taking the initiative we must carefully consider strategy. The elements of strategy are: identifying opportunity, gathering facts, analyzing alternatives, judging appropriateness, and taking actions.
Fifth chapter is ‘Opportunity and timing’. For a skilled commander, momentum is like a crossbow and timing is a trigger which will release the bolt with deadly accuracy. The executive who is skillful at using unexpected tactics has infinite resources. When the speed of diving falcon breaks the neck of its prey, it is due to precise timing. For a skilful executive, opportunity is like a launching pad and timing is the trigger that will shoot a missile with deadly accuracy. General selects the most appropriate people to carry out his purposes at the critical moment.
Sixth chapter is ‘Control’. A skilful warrior moves his opponent; he does not allow the opponent to move him against a skilled attacker, the enemy does not know which point to defend. Against a skilled defender, the enemy does not know which point to attack. The best strategies are hidden. They cannot be discovered. Formless and invisible strategies cannot be discovered by the best spy even invisible strategy cannot be defeated by the wisest counselor. To defeat enemy, control the situation. If an executive controls the time and place of an encounter he can make careful detail preparation without risking failure. If one does not control the time and place of battle, no matter how many resources are thrown in to the conflict, preparation will be inadequate and failure will occur. The executive who crafts his victory by successfully adopting his land and resources to weaken his opponent is called a genius.
Seventh chapter is ‘Managing Direct Conflict’. Maneuvering the army successfully depends on misdirecting the enemy and luring them away. Move towards situation of advantage. Retain your freedom. He who moves with restrictions will win. The secret of deception bases on how to manipulate the enemy’s deception. Once an executive understands the need to take on a competitor, he gathers his resources, organizes them carefully and brings them under his control. Winning in a direct attack depends on using information effectively. Know what is real and what illusion is. You can manipulate his affected strategy by creating false perceptions. Direct attack can be used to gain an advantage. If you seek to gain an advantage consider timing a critical factor. If you lack effective training or proper equipment, you will be defeated. If you lack adequate financial backing, you will be defeated. If you lack timely information you will be defeated. A good general avoids the enemy in high spirits. He attacks when enemy is tired. He always waits for chaos with order. Do not attack a well ordered-formation. In circumstances where emotions are high, wise reasoning is important.
Eighth chapter is ‘Flexibility’. Only a general who is flexible and knows how to adopt his strategy to changing circumstances can command victorious troops. Do not set a position that is isolated or far from resources. Do not set up a position that has very weak points and cannot be defended. Only an executive, who is flexible and can adopt his strategy to change in circumstances, can recognize advantageous situations. He will assign the right person to do the right thing at a right time. There are five character flaws which can cause generals to fail an army’s to die: if he is reckless, his men can be killed. If he is cowardly, his army can be captured. If he is short tempered, he will react in anger. If he is self-important, he can be deceived. If he is attached to his men, he will hesitate at a critical moment.
‘Maneuvering’ is the next chapter. Stay on the high ground, where you will have a clear view of the surrounding country. You can manage competitions more easily when your emotions, organizations and your constituency are stable. Healthy emotions and sharp minds are necessary for competitive success. Create motivation through enthusiasm. If we underestimate the enemy, and do not consider the meaning of his moment, we will loose. Carefully study his moment keeping your resources in view.
The next chapter is named as ‘Types of Competitive Situations and causes of failure’. We can describe the six competitive situations as accessible, ensnaring, inconclusive, restricted, difficult and speculating. During the campaign, disaster can appear from six executive’s mistakes: desertion, insubordination, ineffectiveness, rashness, chaos and incompetence. Competitive operations fail due to executive’s mistakes: lacks of resources, lacks of directions, lacks of performance, lacks of order, lacks of discipline and lacks of competence. Treat your associates like your own family and they will work for you. Treat them like your beloved friends, and they will repay you with loyalty.
Eleventh chapter is ‘Competitive Conditions and Offensive Strategy’. The competitive situation determines how we can effectively employ our resources. The different kinds of situations must be examined carefully. Situations are: scattered situations, uncommitted situations, conflict situations, accessible situations, intersecting situations, critical situations, blocked situations, surrounded situations, and deadly situations. General has to bring all the forces together and put them in to a dangerous situation. Lead troops by actions not by words. Keep your people healthy, save your energy, cherish their morals, don’t overburden them unnecessarily, carefully plan how to use to your personnel, the goal of leadership is to make people work together to achieve desirable goals. Begin your actions quietly and secretly.
The title of next chapter is ‘Destroying Reputation’. There are five objectives for attack by fire: burn personnel’s, burn inventory, burn equipments, burn arsenals, burn transportation. Destroying reputation depends on the political and economic environment at the time. Don’t attack your enemy unless you can profit from it. Do not consume resources unless there is a corresponding gain. A ruler should not raise an army out of rage. Commander should not attack the enemy out of anger or emotions. An enlightened ruler is very prudent and a great commander is very cautious. Don’t act aggressively unless you are in danger. A smart executive acts wisely and cautiously.
The last chapter is ‘Gathering Intelligence’. Intelligence comes only from people who know the enemy from personal experience. There are five types of intelligence activities: local intelligence, internal intelligence, counter intelligence, misleading intelligence and continuing intelligence. Constituents know critical information in advance. They know their competitive objectives, resources, and activities. Useful intelligence comes from people who have first hand knowledge and personal experience with competent and constituent. The first goal is to obtain accurate, timely information about the objectives, resources, and activities of competitor. The second is to provide the competent with misleading information about your own objectives, resources and activities. Four sources are used to deceive and transmit intelligence: general source, internal intelligence, counters intelligence, and moles. Counter intelligence agents are the most valuable agents. Intelligence is the essence and foundation of all competitive actions.
We may say after reading and critically analyzing this Masterpiece that the observation and human psychology together may help in achieving the goals successfully. Sun Tzu was a keen observer with broad vision. Such Ideas are working because of his realist observation for the success. The success is not an ordinary one but is an ultimate success for the true executives. Focus has also been placed on Leadership Qualities and Leadership Flaws!!!