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The Annotated Art of War (Parts 7.5-10: The Price of Speed)


Disciplines > Warfare > The Annotated Art of War > Parts 7.5-10: The Price of Speed

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VII. Maneuvering


Sun Tzu said: Commentary
5. Maneuvering with an army is advantageous; with an undisciplined multitude, most dangerous.

Moving quickly takes a fit army that is ready to pick up and go far into hazardous territory. Rapid movement often has little time for preparation or scouting. To take on such challenges needs motivated and ready troops. 

In business, sometimes you have to move quickly to take advantage of an opportunity or respond to competitive action. In such cases, there is little time for planning, training and other preparation. You must see the need and move quickly, and your people must be ready also.

This is one reason why preparation and practice is so important: there is no time on the day.

6. If you set a fully equipped army in march in order to snatch an advantage, the chances are that you will be too late. On the other hand, to detach a flying column for the purpose involves the sacrifice of its baggage and stores. For speed of response, units that must move quickly will have little time to pack. To move quickly, they also will not be able to carry much with them.

A way of handling this is to have different units, some able to move quickly with others arriving later as reinforcement.

7. Thus, if you order your men to roll up their buff-coats, and make forced marches without halting day or night, covering double the usual distance at a stretch, doing a hundred LI in order to wrest an advantage, the leaders of all your three divisions will fall into the hands of the enemy. Rapid maneuver seldom has time for the cautious advance of normal warfare. It is hence quite possible that your light and mobile force will meet one which is stronger.

The loss of troops is a price that must be considered. However the gains from maneuvers may lead to many other lives being saved through the shortening of the war and reduction in pitched battles.

8. The stronger men will be in front, the jaded ones will fall behind, and on this plan only one-tenth of your army will reach its destination. When a group of people are all hurrying, they will naturally spread out with the faster going ahead and the slower falling behind. The same may be true of military units. The result can be that when the front troops reach the enemy position they are seeking, they will be few in number.

This means you cannot depend on all or, indeed, many of the troops you dispatch on the mission to reach the final goal in force, and so you must plan accordingly.

9. If you march fifty LI in order to outmaneuver the enemy, you will lose the leader of your first division, and only half your force will reach the goal. Travelling a long way will result in loss both from spreading out of forces and particularly those few at the front taking most damage as they encounter enemy troops.
10. If you march thirty LI with the same object, two-thirds of your army will arrive. The shorter the distance that troops march, the closer together they will be, the less chance of ambush and less falling at the wayside from exhaustion.

In business if you work your people too much, you will lose some who leave, others will fall sick from stress and over-work and others will give up and work only in body but not in spirit. 



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