|Sun Tzu said:
14. Now an army is exposed to six several calamities, not arising from
natural causes, but from faults for which the general is responsible. These are:
(1) Flight; (2) insubordination; (3) collapse; (4) ruin; (5) disorganization;
||The general of an
army has many responsibilities, not only to win the war but also
avoid failures and ignominy. The general represents the ruler on the
battlefield and any loss and shame is felt directly by the ruler.
|15. Other conditions being equal, if one force is hurled against another ten
times its size, the result will be the flight of the former.
||There are many
variables and tactics in war that a general can use. The most
primitive approach is for the two armies to meet on a battlefield
and just throw themselves at each other.
When it is simple force against simple force like this, then the
laws of physics say that the greater force will win.
This can seem like a strong and honorable approach yet vanity in
war is more like foolishness. It is foolish even for the stronger force, as they could avoid many deaths by using superior tactics.
In business, it is often tempting for large companies spend their
way out a competitive situation, for example with pricey advertising
campaigns. This is not the only way.
|16. When the common soldiers are too strong and their officers too weak, the
result is insubordination. When the officers are too strong and the common
soldiers too weak, the result is collapse.
||Weak command is
always bad, but when soldiers who are allowed to disobey it leads to
It is bad enough in business when people do not obey commands,
but in war it is far worse, where concerted and precise action is
|17. When the higher officers are angry and insubordinate, and on meeting the
enemy give battle on their own account from a feeling of resentment, before the
commander-in-chief can tell whether or no he is in a position to fight, the
result is ruin.
through coordinated command and action. When individual commanders
do not respect the general, when they reject higher orders, or when
they act on their own initiative without coordination, then the
whole mission is in danger.
This effect appears in business where individual business
departments and units act as independent 'silos', seeking individual
success, often at the expense of other internal groups. With this
wasteful inner division, customers and shareholders lose out.
|18. When the general is weak and without authority; when his orders are not
clear and distinct; when there are no fixes duties assigned to officers and men,
and the ranks are formed in a slovenly haphazard manner, the result is utter
||The higher the
officer, the clearer and stronger must be the command, with distinct
responsibilities at the next level down the hierarchy. Any failure
in this system leads to problems propagating down the tree.
The modern British army uses something called 'the commander's
intent'. Much attention is paid to understanding this, so even if
units get separated, they can still use their initiative towards the
In business, senior strategy often flops as varying management
and local interpretation leads to a misaligned and uncoordinated
set of tactics.
|19. When a general, unable to estimate the enemy's strength, allows an
inferior force to engage a larger one, or hurls a weak detachment against a
powerful one, and neglects to place picked soldiers in the front rank, the
result must be rout.
||In war, intelligence
is key, and knowing your enemy's strength is a critical part of
The troops on the front line act as a shield for the rest of
the army. If the front line is penetrated then further problems
ensue. It hence is important to have strong front-line troops.
In business, the customer surface, where people touch customers
on a regular basis, is an important part of the brand. It is strange
how many big-name companies outsource sales and service calls to
companies who do the brand a daily disservice.
|20. These are six ways of courting defeat, which must be carefully noted by
the general who has attained a responsible post.
||There are many ways
of failing. These are important ones.
Note how many of these are about leadership. Without good
leadership and good management, both war and business will fail. You
are as good as your worst officer or manager.