The Art of War – 3. Essentials for Victory

The Art of War

Series 3 – Essentials for Victory

 

“Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory: (1) He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight. (2) He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces. (3) He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks. (4) He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared. (5) He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign. (The Art of War, Section 3 – Attack by Stratagem, Sun Tzu 5th Century BC)

 

  1. He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.

Commanders have to be able to tell if it is a good time to fight. In other words, the skill set to evaluate the battle and gain an estimation of the odds of winning, before they fight.

 

  1. He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.

Represents commanders who have to be able to effectively lead either smaller amounts of an army or a larger amount of an army. It means to master military management, capable of organising and operating forces of different scales.

  1. He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.

It means from top to bottom; the whole army has common goals and shared value. It can also be explained as the ability to think for others as if you are in their positions, so people take care of each other for a common benefit.

 

  1. He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.

This means the commander must always be prepared for any possible situation. When incidents occur, the one who is prepared will defeat the one who is not.

“The opportunity is for the one who is prepared”

 

  1. He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.

This means when commanders are capable and talented, they can operate the army without too much interference from the lords and will win.

 

Applications to business:

  • Change the payment structure – shared value

Sun Tzu believes common goals and shared value among all ranks will lead to victory. As people start their business and develop and grow it over time, they would often find the productivity has plunged at some point. The business leaders should try to bind the staffs’ interests with the company. Start with an attractive payment structure, change the fixed payment model to partial commission and add a bonus based (note: make sure you budget for the higher salaries these incentives will encourage), the potential extra pay will stimulate the employee’s performance further.

There are plenty of other ways to achieve similar productivity, but keep in mind, the purpose is to create shared value, not to cut the base payment. This structure should be used to stimulate employees to perform better, for their interests as well as companies’.

  • Authorise capable people

In many cases, when a business grows to a certain point, the management hierarchy becomes an issue that may hinder further growth. Some competent staff members often find themselves tied up with the politics of the management system. Sun Tzu indicates that one of the essential elements for victory is to let capable people do their work without interference by the sovereign. Find capable and trust worthy employees, give them the authority and let them take charge with their area of work which will fully utilise their specialist skills.

 

Written by Conrad (Kang-Wei) Lin | 林剛維, 16/11/2018

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