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At the end of last month, I gave a presentation at my department's newly created monthly department Communication Session. I was the 1st to take the stage, at the same time setting the benchmark for how future sessions will subsequently be held. There were no set structure or topic as to how these free form communication sessions should be run. To accompany my rather unusual topic, entitled "Applying Sun Tzu's Art of War", I also proposed some finger snacks and drinks to lighten the mood, which turned out to be an excellent move.

I thought I will share some of my notes here, as numerous friends have been rather fascinated with the choice of topic; and Kemmy... no... it's not an "art" piece!

Why Sun Tzu's Art of War?
The Art of War (孫子兵法) is a Chinese military treatise that was written during the 6th century BC by Sun Tzu (famous Wu General, 544 BC – 496 BC). I read the book many years back and thought the book comprising of 13 chapters, each of which is devoted to one aspect of warfare, was the definitive work on military strategies and tactics of its time.

In modern times, the tactics have been applied successfully to businesses and sales. I don't claim to be an expert in this field (at all), but if accomplishing a mission is anything like a warfare to you, you should be able to apply some of Sun Tzu's strategies.
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting”
Understanding The Art of War
The first step to a war is knowing the ENEMY.
The ENEMY can be WHO, WHAT or WHEN.
“Know your enemy and know yourself and you will never be in peril.”
In a broad simple sense, I have broken the gist of Sun Tzu's concepts into 4 small balls:
* Environment (or Ground)
  • * Climate
  • * Leaders
  • * Systems
    and 1 BIG ball:
  • * Mission
    Sun Tzu Art of War Mission Diagram

    Understanding the Environment (or Ground)
    “You must start from where you are.”
  • * Your environment is your battleground
  • * Survey your environment
  • * Each environment is different
    - timing
    - distance (Physical distance, Mental distance)
  • * Know your current position at all times
    - analyze and take advantage
    - knowledge of understanding how it works, not just what it does

    Understanding Climate
    "Climate is the trends of change"
  • * Weather (cannot be controlled by you)
    - emotions
    - character etc.
  • * Time (dynamic, continually changing)
    - technology
    - economy etc.
  • * Foresee trends, cycles, patterns, and reversals

    Understanding Leaders
    “Good leaders win fights before they begin. Bad leaders get in fights and then look for ways to win.”
    Leadership is your ability to make decisions. Sun Tzu identified 5 qualities that are essential.

  • * Intelligence
    - be able to learn
    - listen and study the issue at hand
    - discern
  • * Courage
    - take action
    - courage without intelligence is stupidity
  • * Compassion
    - 3Ms - My Mission, My Men, and Myself
  • * Discipline
    - capability to follow through tasks
    - the ability to control your own emotions
  • * Integrity
    - be trustworthy

    Understanding Systems
    “You can’t improve what you don’t understand.”
  • * When improving and analyzing systems, the focus is not on the technology but on the people interacting. Systems are about how people work together
  • * While every improvement requires change, not every change is an improvement
  • * Organize work in a way that create value
  • * Methods must match the mission
  • * Begin the systems analysis by documenting “what is”

  • 3 types of systems you must consider:
    - Methods that support the company
    - Methods that support professional growth
    - Methods that spread your philosophy

    Understanding The Mission
    "Your mission is your purpose"
  • * Mission is the core of a competitive position
  • * The key to mission is that it must be shared
  • * Without focus, we create enemies
  • * Good organizations reward people for understanding and satisfying the shared mission

    In Summary
    “Success” simply means to improve your position.
    Positions are all about relative relationships
    A position has/is:
  • * A guiding mission (Mission)
  • * A system for working with others (System)
  • * The command of the individual (Leaders)
  • * A climate related to the ground (Climate)
  • * Ground where people interact (Environment)

    And to close,
    “Every venture is an opportunity to improve your leadership, the marketplace, your systems, your ability to move quickly (timing), or enhance your mission.”

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