The purpose of raising such army is to achieve swift and decisive victory. If victory cannot be achieved quickly, weapons would be blunt and the army would also lose their fighting spirit. When they attacked city walls, they would be greatly exhausted. If the army is out on a military campaign for too long, the nation’s resources would be greatly depleted or exhausted. When the army is in a bad shape and the resources of the nation are exhausted, other neighboring warlords would capitalize on these weaknesses by launching an attack on us. Even if there are clever and capable strategists or advisor, it would not be able to reverse the situation. While blunders are known to occur during military operations, one has yet witness a successful military operations where there are long delays. No one has seen a military campaign where the longer the campaign, the more beneficial it is to the nation. – Sun Tzu Art of War, Chapter Two
The lines above indicates the importance of swift victory. If swift victory is not achieved, gradually more weaknesses would surface, like blunted weapons and decreasing fighting morale. The longer the military campaign, the lower the morale of soldiers, as they missed their home. The longer the campaign, the greater the cost to the nation, due to the daily costs. Besides incurring great expenses, accumulated through the campaign, the nation also risk having neighboring countries attacking it. And to stress how dire the situation of prolonged campaign could be, Sun Tzu said that, even the best strategist would not be able to reverse the situation.
In order to achieve swift victory, thus lessen the burden on the nation, Sun Tzu advocates the following in the next few lines of:
1) Plundering the resources of the enemy. In this way it weakens the enemy by exhausting their resources and the nation could save resources on transportation, equipments and so on.
2) Instill hatred for the enemies into his troop. This would raise the fighting morale of the troops.
3) Motivate his armies by promising material rewards, obtained from plundering and pillaging enemy’s resources.
4) Encourage risk taking by using immediate and noticeable rewards. This would excite and motivate the whole army, encouraging competition between the troops. Note that the two important words are ‘immediate’ and ‘noticeable’. If it is not immediate, soldiers would not be enticed to act on opportunity. As the saying goes, a bird in the hand is worth more than two in a bush. If it is not noticeable, the soldiers may think the reward is not worth the effort and the lack of the ‘envy’ factor in as well. People like to show off their merit, especially those that they worked hard for. So it is important that such reward is ‘noticeable’ both in the amount of it and the way it is presented to the receiver.
5) Treating the enemy soldiers well. This would greatly help in the intelligence work, obtaining vital information that could provide decisive advantages. But note that this could be relative. If the enemy’s general has been kind to his soldiers, the amount of resources spent to ‘pamper’ these prisoners-of-war could cost a lot but the information they hold could be vital.
So how can we apply this knowledge to the business arena?
1) Try to leverage on the resources that have been used by your business rivals. For instance, the goodwill that has been created on a certain product, through the marketing effort of your rival, or the distribution network that has been established. But one thing to note is, you would have ceded to your rival, the first mover’s advantage. So it is wise to assess whether the first mover’s advantage is important for your company.
2) Create a good reward system. Make sure the rewards system will align the performance of your staff with the goals that you want to achieve. Have a reward system that will reward risk-taking and healthy competition, if possible. Creating a good reward system is more of an art than a science, given the many complications.
3) Organize events that will keep up the morale and spirit of the employees in your company. With high morale and spirit, comes greater efficiency and more conducive work environment. A conducive environment where everyone works towards macro goals, will reduce staff turnovers which in turn, reduce human resource related expenditure. Another benefit of lower staff turnover is this. Most of the time, if your staff leave, he would very likely be moving to a rival company because their expertise are industry-related. It can spell disaster if the staff joins a rival company because of the information he has about your company.
4) Treat staff that has crossed over from rival companies well. This would allow you to gain access to valuable information that might help you to clinch the million-dollar deal that you have been waiting for, or snatch market share from your rival, dealing a possible fatal blow to your rival.