Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”

Sun Tzu’s book “The Art of War”was written in 400BC.

Peter Drucker’s and Sun Tzu’s management tenets for success are essentially the same.

Sun Tzu was China’s first professional General. Prior to him the Sovereign led his army which was frequently disorganized, under-funded and unsuccessful.

He developed strategy and tactics of war but also detailed financial budgets, manpower required, basic training and logistics (e.g., the number of helmets, chickens)

It is a surprisingly practical manual of war with basic advice such as: “Dust spurting upward in high straight columns indicates the approach of chariots.” “There are five methods of attacking with fire. The first…, the second…”.

Some of his tenets follow – I suggest substituting Board of Directors or Owner for Sovereign and Chief Executive Officer for General:

1. “There are five qualities that are dangerous in the character of a general…”

“If he is reckless…”

“If he is cowardly…”

“If he is quick-tempered, he is obstinate and hasty – does not consider difficulties. The essential temperament of a general is steadiness…”

“If he is defensive. One anxious to defend his reputation pays no regard to anything else…”

“If he is too much of a humanitarian…”

“These five traits of character are serious faults in a general and in military operations are disastrous.”

2. “The ways in which a Ruler may bring misfortune upon the army is by interfering with its administration and operations. He whose generals are able and not interfered with by the Sovereign will be victorious. There are occasions when the commands of the Sovereign need not be obeyed.”

3. “If one ignorant in military matters is sent to administer the army, then every movement will be hamstrung. This engenders doubts in the minds of the officers. A confused army leads to another’s victory.

4. “He whose ranks are united in purpose will be victorious. Thus, command them with civility and imbue them uniformly with martial ardor and it may be said that victory is certain.”

5. “And therefore the general who in advancing does not seek personal fame, and in withdrawing is not concerned with avoiding punishment, but whose only purpose is to protect the people and promote the best interests of his Sovereign, is the precious jewel of the state. Few such are to be had.”

“It is the business of a general to be serene and inscrutable, impartial and self-controlled. If serene he is not vexed; if inscrutable, unfathomable; if upright, not improper; if self-controlled, not confused.”

Basically his book describes the development and execution of a strategic plan. His emphasis on doing the unexpected is a synonym for Peter Drucker’s innovation.

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Robert Amter
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