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Article -> The Art of Business

Date Added: September 2004

Having a successful business takes a great deal of hard work, courage and determination. Success comes at a price as each day can be a battle. A battle with customers, employees, suppliers, distributors, etc. Several factors are required to win these battles, and many are similar to those used to achieve victory in war more than 2300 years ago.

The classic book, The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, contains many key "rules" to be successful in war. These "rules" closely relate to being successful in business. Let's review:

The Art of War* The Art of Business Weapons to Win
If orders are not understood and clearly explained, or there is a lack of harmony, it is the leader's fault and battle should be avoided. Communicate the organizational vision and strategy so employees clearly understand it.
  • Employee communications plan
  • Employee engagement analysis
Select people and let them exploit situations through their own skills. Select and hire the right people with the right skills for the right roles.
  • Employee 360-degree assessment and satisfaction analysis
Understand the strategy and tactics of war. Understand the organizational strategy and priorities, and the needs of customers.
  • Employee communications plan
  • Employee 360-degree assessment and satisfaction analysis
  • Customer Needs Analysis
Know the enemy, know thyself... and you will achieve victory. Conduct a detailed strategic planning process and plan.
  • Strategic plan
  • Market analysis
  • Customer Needs Analysis
Employ secret agents because an army without them is like a person without eyes and ears. Employ internal and external experts to conduct competitive analysis and understand the market.
  • Market analysis
  • Market research team
  • External consultant
Speed is the essence of war. Create a sense of urgency and be proactive with customers' needs.
  • Customer needs analysis
  • Employee engagement analysis
Bestow rewards. Develop an employee incentive plan.
  • Employee 360-degree assessment
  • Employee satisfaction analysis

All of these concepts flow from Sun Tzu's core principle, which is that the intellectual and moral elements of war are more important than the physical elements, and that sheer power and number of people do not necessarily offer an advantage.

Translation to business? Organizations able to ask, listen and understand the "voices" of employees and customers through items listed in the "Weapons to Win" column above will have a competitive advantage. This involves:

  • Engaging employees to ensure their understanding of the organizational strategy, business and brand,
  • Being proactive with customers to understand their needs,
  • Providing customers with personalized solutions to meet their needs,
  • Learning and repositioning the business (continually) to meet the ever-changing market.

Regardless of the number of employees or amount of revenues, organizations that have the "weapons" to do these things well - and know how to use them - will win. Sun Tzu knew this more than 2300 years ago, and it applies to business today.

*Tzu, Sun. The Art of War. Translated by Samuel B. Griffith. Oxford University Press. London: 1963. Please note that information has been paraphrased for current grammar guidelines.

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