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The Annotated Art of War (Parts 7.11-14: Ensure Familiarity)


Disciplines > Warfare > The Annotated Art of War > Parts 7.11-14: Ensure Familiarity

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VII. Maneuvering


Sun Tzu said: Commentary
11. We may take it then that an army without its baggage-train is lost; without provisions it is lost; without bases of supply it is lost.

An army, as they say, marches on its stomach. Supplies of food and all the other requirements of living keep the army not just alive but motivated and strong.

Short maneuvers work without a supply line, but they cannot hold out forever, and so need the main force to catch up soon.

12. We cannot enter into alliances until we are acquainted with the designs of our neighbors. History is full of alliances that turned into treachery. If another offers a hand, ask 'What do they really seek? What is in it for them?'

When you know their true desires and intent, you can then determine whether to ally with them and how you can trust them.

13. We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless we are familiar with the face of the country--its mountains and forests, its pitfalls and precipices, its marshes and swamps. To march across unknown lands is to risk finding unfordable rivers and unscalable cliffs. If you do not know what is ahead, you may be caught in an ambush in a narrow defile where you cannot fight with strength. If you do not know the land you risk others being on high ground and miss advantages you can gain.

Wars are often spent around hills, with one force on top and the other at the bottom, trying to dislodge them.

It is hence imperative to understand well the land ahead. If you do not have maps this means sending out scouts.

The principle is true in business for knowing anything that is ahead. As far as you can see, so you can be prepared.


14. We shall be unable to turn natural advantage to account unless we make use of local guides. Scouting can only tell you so much. Natives who have lived there will know much more than you possibly can, so make use of them.

In business, find those who know and understand things at a depth that you cannot, then learn from them. One resource that is often forgotten is your own front-line people who meet and deal with customers every day. What would be different if executives had such knowledge? 



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