Sun Tzu Art of War – A Critical Point to Note for Strategy Planning

Santo Ae

An army may bundle up and keep the armor wear, in order to rush its movement forward through nights and days without rest so that double the distance can be covered. It can travel 100 miles to contend for advantages against the enemy. However, such an army is likely to risk having the generals of its three divisions captured. This is because the stronger and fitter men will be in front while the weaker ones are far behind. As a result, only one tenth of it will reach the destination. It can travel 50 miles to contend for advantages against the enemy. In this case, the general of the vanguard will be humiliated and defeated. This is because only half the troops will arrive at the destination. It can travel 30 miles to contend for advantages against the enemy, but only two thirds of the troops will arrive at the destination. – Chapter Seven, Sun Tzu Art of War

As we have seen in the above lines from Sun Tzu Art of War, no matter how far the troops travel, it will lose certain amount of troops if they are rushed to the battlefield. Depending on the distance traveled, the amount of troops or officers lost could have a detrimental effect because in war, numerical strength is one of the important factors that will determine the victor.

In my opinion, this can be avoided if your calculation of the whole process from preparation to marching to battlefield is accurate. But who can say that his calculation is accurate and reality will act in the way you planned and calculated? So a margin of safety would be the best way to act against such uncertainty. If you are rushing a troop of 100,000 for 100 miles, expect only 10,000 would reach the destination in time. Take the decrease into calculation.

BUSINESS APPLICATION

This applies to business as well since it is well known that business has a lot of uncertainties. Managing such uncertainties can increase one’s ability to survive, or even enhance competitive advantage, in the most dynamic environment.

When entrepreneurs or businessman venture into a new business, they would plan their finances for the next three to five years. Most of them are able to plan accurately, down to the exact cents, how the budget is spent. And they start seeking finance for that particular budget. Such accurate planning is admirable, but what they should also plan for is uncertainties that can happen.

For instance, in business, you may have written down how each and every dollar you have sought is spent, but you also would need a buffer for you to act on emergencies or the things that you might have overlooked. You might have to seek another round of finance if you are not prepared. And we all know that seeking another round of finance would not be favorable. Think about the amount of work that needs to be done and how distracting it is as well.

So always remember to have a margin of safety when planning your strategy.

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