c The Art of War by Sun Tzu - A review

Book Review - The Art of War by Sun Tzu

The book, Art of War, was originally written in Mandarin in 300 B.C. by the army general Sun Tzu. He believed that every war could be won by an appropriate strategy irrespective of the opponentís size and domination. The key element according to him is strategy, which eventually comes from knowing oneself and equally from knowing the enemy. He goes on to explain different methods of deployment, rank satisfaction, motivation, sudden attack, liaison, from conception to execution and beyond. Although he does not provide us with a plan of action when on the battlefield, he does tell us the underlying philosophy behind combat, both before and during battle. Since then, this book has found applications in every sphere, and especially in business - marketing, finance, human resource management and most importantly strategy. This is the point of view from which we shall analyse the book.

Strategy is omnipresent across functional areas and we learn about this in The Art of War. Not only should one have a sound strategy but one must implement it swiftly. What is essential is success and not prolonged implementation. Prolonged implementation not only reduces effectiveness of the programme but also results in loss of interest of all those involved in the implementation of the strategy.

Not only have a strategy of your own but also know your enemyís strategy. For success itís essential to know your enemy better than you know yourself. The first step in victory over oneís competitors is to attack their strategy and the final resort is to take them head on. In the marketing scenario it would mean that we must first differentiate our products or services and the price war is only a final resort. When competing against the enemy one must identify his vulnerabilities before attacking, and attack only when he is at his weakest. Thus, not only does one require a good strategy, but also the timing, momentum and execution must be perfect for success. Maximize your strengths and exploit your opponentís weaknesses and that will contribute to the success of your strategy.

Manoeuvrability is a must for every successful strategy. For every strategy a contingency plan is imperative. You should be able to mould your strategy as per the situation. Have the ability to use both direct and indirect approaches. Be capable of switching between plans efficiently as when required.

The five qualities that a leader must avoid are recklessness, cowardice, quick temper, a sense of honour and compassion. These would result in situations where the leader is not followed thus one must ensure that not only is the leader aware of the nine variables but he should at all costs avoid the above five.

The above are all elements that are crtitical to keep in mind while developing a strategy. Over 2300 years, The Art of War has been applied in various fields. Strategies are a part of our daily lives. As managers, who live and breathe strategy, we have a lot to learn from this masterpiece.