The number of books, articles and related scholarly, business and entertainment paraphernalia regarding the subject of warfare and business is indeed plethoric. Many, if not most, of these seem to hold Sun Tzu in high regard, and rightly so. There are indeed parallels between triumphant warfare, which includes “warfighting”, for my American friends, and the prosecution of successful business. These parallels must be considered together with the spirit in which the thirteen Chapters were written, or the Western misinterpretation of Clausewitz’ “Total War” will manifest its indiscriminately destructive self yet again.
I’ve pointed out before that Sun Tzu himself was no warmonger, but postulated that war ought to be avoided if at all possible. If necessary, enemy states were to be subdued without fighting. Comments such as “He who struggles for victory with naked blades is not a good general” and “Battles are dangerous affairs” are liberally sprinkled throughout the Samuel B Griffith text by both author and commentator. “There has never been a protracted war from which the state has benefited” and “…the affairs of seven hundred thousand families will be disrupted…” underscore his sentiments.
One of the first things mentioned in the Thirteen Chapters is the importance of benevolent rulers. This implies corporate leadership the likes of which we rarely see today. Only when an enterprise is built upon a covenantly firm commitment to delivering the highest possible value to stakeholders, and that includes the enterprise itself, will it even begin to be a viable and lasting proposition.
The other two parts of the work can be roughly divided into operations and intelligence. Business operations focus on many things, but essentially on how to deliver the best using the least amount of resources, always keeping an eye on the immediate and intermediate business goals, and never losing sight of the enterprise’s vision. Business intelligence, as I define it, is EXTERNAL situational awareness that will influence posturing and resource allocation to “shape” the “corporate battlefield” by both current and future-focused interdiction. INTERNAL situational awareness is the bailiwick of the Operations part of the shop. The taut, well-run corporate group has only a few secrets to bother about, because it is so strong that the “enemy” can do very little about it. It is both unassailable and “un-copyable”, and the few secrets it has are all about intentions and how resources can be re-allocated swiftly and effectively enough that competitor action has very little influence over the outcome.
So, are there really business battlegrounds and do corporations engage in combat? Today, yes. We need to mature from that level of thinking to one where an abundance mindset undergirds a culture of giving and genuine servanthood. Until that happens, “In times of peace, a true gentleman keeps his sword by his side at all times”. For those of you who would like to have a visual presentation of similar concepts, there is a pretty nice slideshare presentation I found. The link is given below. So, fight well, my friends! Fight for the highest value all round, and your enemies will have no choice but to become your friends.