For the past 2,500 years, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War has been a source of inspiration and guidance for military leaders and strategists. The lessons in this book have spread across the globe, adapting to hundreds of languages, situations and cultures. The Art of War has extended far beyond its’ initial intent is now as likely to be found in the Business section of your local bookstore than in the section on military theory.
If you search Amazon.com for “Art of War” you will find over 5,000 books listed on the subject. They cover everything from the obvious military focused texts to how to apply the lessons of The Art of War to parenting, or starting a business.
What Sun Tzu (often referred to as Sun Wu) put together was a set of tools that can be applied to just about every type of situation or interaction you can find. Unfortunately, people are often unable to get past the weight of the word “War” in order to see how this material can be applied to non-violent situations. The simple fact is that one who practices the Art of War well will find him or herself getting into conflict-oriented situations less often than the people around them who do not practice it.
For the past ten years I have been using the Art of War as part of my personal approach to Project Management. What I can tell you is that if you are able to let go of the negative connotations you may harbor towards the word “War”, you will find a set of tools as valuable as anything you will find in the PMBOK. These tools can help you with everything from determining the best way to handle direct interpersonal conflict, to how to manage the people on your team, to how to approach your sponsor when you need additional funding. As with the PMBOK, a great deal of what you will find in the Art of War will initially seem like common sense presented in a way you just may not have thought of it before.
What I hope to do in this series of articles is to introduce the Art of War as a set of tools that can be used to compliment the skills we develop in working with the PMBOK. While they are not in any way meant to be a substitute, if you practice them, they will become some of the most valuable, and reliable project management skills at your disposal. This series of articles will address key elements from each of the 13 lessons in the Art of War and show how the lessons may be applied to project management.
The next article will focus on how to view the lessons of the Art of War as lessons in the Art of Negotiation and Project Management and the first, and most critical step in achieving success in any endeavor, understanding how to take an initial assessment of ones surroundings and situation.