There are books we’ve all heard of, but most have not read. In my experience, Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” is one such book. It was written about 2500 years ago by a Chinese general, and has been studied by military strategists around the world. Although Sun Tzu was not writing for business people, the teachings certainly apply to the business world. In this post, I’ll share just a half-dozen of my favorites from the book. For more profound wisdom, please read the rest on your own.
Preparation: “Battles are won or lost before they are fought.” Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win. This teaching emphasizes the importance of planning and preparation to effective execution. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. Don’t “wing it.”
Study: “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” You’re probably thinking that this is a Godfather quote. It is, but where did Godfather author Mario Puzo get the line? Sun Tzu. Competitive analysis seems to be a lost practice. Smart businesses study their competition closely.
Deception: “All warfare is based upon deception.” Football great Barry Sanders said that he had only two moves – “fake right and go left” and “fake left and go right”. Maybe so, but he was so deceptive with these two moves that he was extremely effective. This teaching emphasizes the importance outmaneuvering your competition – provide better service to customers, be more responsive to market needs, treat your people better and yes, out-think your competitors.
Leadership: “A leader leads by example, not by force.” Of course, there are leaders that use force to compel action from their teams. Such “leaders” are not successful, certainly not in the long run.
Process and Communication: “To control many is the same as controlling few, using formations and signals.” Formations and signals … sounds like battle, right? Well, change the terms to processes and communication and voila … you’ve got the same principle, applied to business. The most successful organizations use processes and effective communication to consistently reach their objectives.
Commanders: “Demonstrate wisdom, sincerity, humanity, courage and firmness.” People buy into the leader before they buy into his vision. How many of these qualities are you demonstrating? There are others, of course, but these are six great characteristics to practice with your team.
I hope that you find this teaser helpful, and that it entices you to read the book. It will be an investment that pays dividends for you, your career and your business.
All the best,
By the way, I don’t charge extra for typos. They are my gift to you.