My review of this book!
January 2, 2007 11:33pm CST
The Art of War has been written by Sun Tzu who was a Chinese general in the kingdom of Wu. He wrote this book approximately 500 B.C. The book clearly shows how one can take the initiative and fight any enemy. His infamous words “if you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles” is the underlying theme of the book. The book talks about victory and how one can achieve it effectively, efficiently and morally. Victory can be achieved in all forms of battles from the usual war situation to ordinary business conflicts, boardroom battles and even in the battle of the sexes. Legend has it that this very book was Napoleon’s key to success and his secret weapon. Its only when he failed to follow the instructions of the book that he was defeated. It’s also said that this book is the source of Mao Tse-tung’s little red book of strategic and tactical doctrine. The book though at times instructive is very interesting and enlightening. It talks about war and strategy in such generic terms that it can be applied anywhere, particularly in business. A careful manager who peruses this book well can greatly benefit from its sayings if he carefully applies them in practice. What I find most interesting about this book is that contemporary business strategy we read today and the importance we give to human relations is greatly reflected in this book. Considering the fact that this book was written some 25 centuries ago it is remarkable that Sun Tzu understood their importance and was very successful in applying them. The book impresses on the importance of a strong leader who is virtuous and just. The book talks about method and discipline, which is akin to the structure, culture, values and norms of an organisation. Sun Tzu says that “Place your army in deadly peril, and it will survive; plunge it into desperate straits, and it will come through in safety” This is such a profound statement, which in a subtle way is a universal truth. We study that when people are set tough goals, they tend to achieve them and how often we hear of companies turning around when their backs are to the wall. A Simple Review: Sun Tzu begins the book by saying that the art of war is of supreme importance to the state, a road that can either lead to safety or ruin and thus should never be neglected. He says that the art of war is governed by constant factors – moral law, heaven, earth, the commander, method and discipline. He prophesises that all warfare is based on deception. Also the leader who wins a battle makes a lot of calculations in his mind before the battle is fought i.e. he visualizes victory. He also warns about long delays in war and cautions about the value of time. In Sun Tzu’s words the highest form of generalship is to break the enemy’s resistance without fighting. This is the way of the sheathed sword, when you attain victory by strategy. His five simple rules emphasize, when to fight and when not to fight, how to handle both superior and inferior forces, how to energize one’s force, the importance of preparation and independence in carrying out one’s duties. Sun Tzu says that to secure us against defeat is in our hands but the opportunity of defeating the enemy will be given by the enemy itself. A clever fighter is one who not only wins but also does so with ease. His victories bring him neither glory nor popularity. He wins battles by not making errors as it ensures the certainty of victory. A successful strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas defeat is for those who fight first and then look for victory. Sun Tzu says that control of a large force is similar in control of a few men; it’s only a matter of dividing their numbers. A good general uses each man according to his capabilities. He also is skilful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend and he is skilled in defence whose opponent does not know what to attack. A good general that keeps adapting his tactics with the external elements and in relation to his enemy will be highly successful. Sun Tzu also warns us of five cardinal sins that may affect any general which are recklessness, cowardice, delicacy of honour, hasty temper and over solicitude for his men. He also says that a good general should always insist on his orders being obeyed and should be aware of the dangers of vacillation and fussiness in his decisions. A good general who treats his soldiers like his own children will find that they will stand by him till death. A good general ensures that his men have tenacity and unity of purpose and above all a spirit of sympathetic cooperation. He also ensures that there is one standard of courage that all must reach. A general is also quiet, secretive, upright, just and maintains order. Sun Tzu ends the book by saying that a wise general always uses the highest intelligence of the army for the purposes of spying, and thus achieves great results. Do members have any other view on this book?