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5 Keys to Business Planning and the Art of War

Sun Tzu was a Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher who lived between 544-496 BC. His book ‘The Art of War’ has become one of the most effective guides to business planning in modern times. For any strategy to succeed it must be supported by a well thought out tactical plan. The Art of War teaches us to choose our battles, develop a plan considering the cost and to execute our plans swiftly. Following are keys to successful business planning:

  1. Each Battle Must Be Chosen Carefully – Generally an optimum business endeavor will generate a desirable rate of return for an acceptable investment with minimal risk and a relatively quick time to implementation. Costly endeavors with low rates of return or long paths to implementation should be foregone in lieu of more favorable options.
    • There are roads which must not be followed, armies which must not be attacked, towns which must not be besieged, positions which must not be contested, commands of the sovereign which must not be obeyed” … Sun Tzu
  2. Success Requires A Well Thought Out Plan – For any business endeavor to succeed an effective plan must be formulated. With a good plan the likelihood of success is far greater.
    • “The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand” … Sun Tzu
    • “Ponder and deliberate before you make a move” … Sun Tzu
  3. The Cost of Planning is Recouped Many Times Over in Successful Execution – Effective planning allows for successful implementation. Without planning losses are likely to be incurred. The cost of any endeavor must be weighed and mitigated to whatever extent possible through careful forethought.
    • “Who wishes to fight must first count the cost” … Sun Tzu
    • “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win” … Sun Tzu
  4. Strategic Objectives and Tactical Plans are InterdependentA good strategic objective without an effective plan will be rendered ineffective. A tactical plan that’s’ not based on a sound strategy will flounder and fail. Definition of strategic objectives should always come first then be supported by good tactical planning.
    • “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat” … Sun Tzu
  5. Plans Must Be Kept Confidential then Executed Swiftly – Success will be increased by the element of surprise. Customers will feel excitement and competitors will scramble to react. Swiftness in execution will result in the maximum benefit.

“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt” … Sun Tzu

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