Planning an Attack | The Natural Planning Method
In part three of The Art of War, Sun Tzu writes of the unity and focus that are required in every part of the army. In the Art of Productivity we will discuss an incremental approach to planning a project.
Proper planning involves following a process that allows one to create a plan after fully defining the problem to be solved. Attacking a problem without focus or unity leads to disaster. In a typical environment, most difficulties are met with an increase in action – work harder, get busier, hire more people. When this doesn’t work, the response is often to rearrange things, and people, in the belief that we just aren’t organized enough.
Finally it will dawn on someone that we are approaching the problem from the wrong direction, because it is still here. Now it’s time to brainstorm those “creative” solutions, think outside the box, draw outside the lines. At the end of this creative session, when we have generated a few ideas that may or may not be related to the problem, we will come to the realization that we really do not know exactly what the problem is. How can we solve a problem that we have not properly defined?
|Sun Tzu said:
In the practical Art of War,
The best thing is to take the enemy’s country whole and intact;
To shatter and destroy it is not so good.
It is better to capture an army than destroy it.
Problems require solutions,
The best solutions are found when the problem has been defined.
An undefined problem will resist solution,
It is better to solve a problem than avoid it.
|To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence;
Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.
|Throwing money and resources at your problems will not solve them,
Defining and understanding the problem will lead you to the solution.
|The highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy’s plans;
The next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy’s forces;
The next in order is to attack the enemy’s army in the field;
The worst policy is to besiege a walled city.
|The best approach to problem-solving is to first define the issue;
The next best is to empower your team to define it for you;
The next in order is to hire a consultant to lead you through it;
The worst approach is to do the wrong things faster.
|The rule is, not to besiege walled cities if at all possible.
The preparations of weapons and machines will take months;
And building mounds against the walls will take months more.
|Do not attempt to start a brainstorming session without defining the goal;
You will waste your time attempting to engage the participants,
You will waste their time in attempting to be creative without tools.
|Therefore the skillful leader
Subdues the enemy’s troops without any fighting;
He captures their cities
Without laying siege to them;
he overthrows their kingdom
Without lengthy operations in the field.
|The phases of natural planning in order to:
Discover the purpose and principles to be followed;
Envision the desired outcome;
Brainstorm and capture ideas for solutions;
Organize the components and priorities;
Assign the Next Actions for completion.
|With his forces intact he will
dispute the mastery of the empire,
Without losing a man his triumph will be complete.
This is the method of attacking by strategem.
|Knowlege of the Purpose and Principles,
Allow you to know when the solution is off-track;
Everyone involved will know the proper criteria,
Having defined the parameters for action.
|It is the rule in war,
If we outnumber the enemy 10:1, to surround him;
If five to one, to attack him;
If two to one, divide the army in half.
|The value of thinking about “Why”
Creates decision-making criteria,
Aligns the resources to be used,
And it can expand the options that are available.
|If equally matched, we can offer battle;
If slightly inferior in numbers, avoid the enemy;
If unequal in every way, we can flee from him.
Though an obstinate fight may be made by a small force,
In the end it must be captured by the larger.
|Having a clear picture of success
Affects what we perceive and how we perform.
If the vision of the conclusion is unclear there will be failure.
You will not see how to achieve the outcome
Until you see yourself doing it.
|The general is the bulwark of the state;
If the bulwark is complete at all points,
The state will be strong;
If the bulwark is defective,
The state will be weak.
|A powerful skill to have is conceiving clear outcomes.
Imagine the state of the project from beyond its completion;
What is the greatest possible success?
If the vision of the outcome is not clear,
The solution will be ineffective.
|There are three ways in which a ruler can bring
misfortune upon his army:
1) By commanding the army to advance or retreat,
being ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey.
This is called hobbling the army.
|There are three ways that the process
can doom the project to failure:
1) Outlining the goals and objectives,
Without defining the operational reality.
This is called sandbagging the process.
|2) By attempting to govern an army
The same way he administers a kingdom,
being ignorant of the conditions in an army.
This causes restlessness in the soldier’s minds.
|2) By scheduling meetings
And demanding the attendance of all,
Without knowing whose involvement is essential.
One meeting will become a group of smaller meetings.
|3) By employing the officers of his army without discrimination,
Through ignorance of the military principle
Of adaptation to circumstances.
This shakes the confidence of the soldiers.
|3) By attempting to assign responsibilities
without having knowledge of capabilities,
or being aware of the resources available.
This causes stress and fearfulness.
|When the army is restless and distrustful,
Trouble is sure to come from the other princes.
This will being anarchy to the army,
And flinging victory away.
|When meetings are deemed to be useless,
Participation in a meaningful way is impossible.
When contributions are not valued,
Solutions are never presented.
|Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory:||There are five essential steps in the method of Natural Planning:|
|1) He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.||1) What is the true purpose of the planning?|
|2) He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.||2) What principles will be followed to bring a successful outcome?|
|3) He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout its ranks.||3) Focus on the final outcome and the features that will be in place.|
|4) He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.||4) Brainstorm for solutions, capture your ideas with a mind-map. Save every notion.|
|5) He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.||5) Organize the ideas and identify the order of the components.|
|Thus the saying:
If you know the enemy and know yourself,
you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
If you know yourself but not the enemy,
For every victory gained, also suffer a defeat.
|Thus the sayings:
“Proper planning prevents poor performance.”
“Failure to plan means planning to fail.”
“Lack of planning on your part does not
Constitute an emergency on my part.”
|If you know neither the enemy
you will succumb in every battle.
|If you do not define the problem
nor envision the outcome,
you will fail at every endeavor.
The Art of Productivity – Part One
The Art of Productivity – Part Two
If you would like to get Strategos – The Art of Productivity in your mailbox, ad-free, please fill in the form below:
Feel free to discuss and share your thoughts in the comments. I am looking forward to the conversation. A public domain version of the Art of War can be downloaded here(.txt file, .html file). (from Project Gutenberg)