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The Annotated Art of War (Parts 7.15-22: Be Skilled)


Disciplines > Warfare > The Annotated Art of War > Parts 7.15-22: Be Skilled

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VII. Maneuvering


Sun Tzu said: Commentary
15. In war, practice dissimulation, and you will succeed.

'Dissimulation' is 'the act of deceiving'. Deceit is a common and critical method of wrong-footing the enemy.

Deceit is also common in business when deliberately keeping a competitor uncertain and less confident. Of course deceiving customers, employees or partners is a bad idea.

16. Whether to concentrate or to divide your troops, must be decided by circumstances. There are various rules for deciding whether troops should be spread out or brought together, for example in the need to defend a wide front. Yet in the end, each decision has many complicating factors and must be carefully considered.

In business, we often seem to blindly apply rules because 'that is what should be done' and then are surprised when our decisions fail. Yet if we took time to understand and think we might have decided otherwise.

17. Let your rapidity be that of the wind, your compactness that of the forest. When you need to move fast, move fast.

When you need to form a close group, knit together.

Whatever you need to do, do it well.

We get to do things well when we plan and practice. Knowing what you need to do is not enough: you must be able to do it.

18. In raiding and plundering be like fire, is immovability like a mountain. Yet again, do whatever you do, well.

Fight like a demon. Defend like a rock.

19. Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt. Keep plans secret and on a need-to-know basis.

When you speed to the attack, go fast to build unstoppable momentum.

20. When you plunder a countryside, let the spoil be divided amongst your men; when you capture new territory, cut it up into allotments for the benefit of the soldiery. Do remember to reward your troops for the efforts they make. This is a chance to show that you care about your people and that you are fair and equitable. Thus motivated, they will fight harder for you.

These days, when cameras are everywhere and armchair generals spout civilian morality, there is controversy over the spoils of war.

In business, there are still many spoils, from competitive bonuses to taking key management posts in acquisitions.

Beware of the demotivational effects of rewards, where people do not get the recognition they think they deserve.

21. Ponder and deliberate before you make a move. While speed is important, there is also 'more haste, less speed'.

The more risky the move the more care is needed. But that does not mean risks should not be taken.

Perhaps the most important skill is in making good decisions with limited data, as often is the case in war (and in business).

22. He will conquer who has learnt the artifice of deviation. Such is the art of maneuvering.

'Deviation' can mean being devious. It can also mean turning off an intended path. Both are relevant as deception is already known as important and changing one's course can be helpful for taking opportunities or surprising the enemy.



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