IT Applications of Sun Tzu’s Art of War: Tactical Dispositions

IV. Tactical Dispositions
1. Sun Tzu said: The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.
2. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.
3. Thus the good fighter is able to secure himself against defeat, but cannot make certain of defeating the enemy.

This section brings to mind the common phrase, “low hanging fruit,” which is often used in business and political circles to refer to easy targets for adding new business or reforming policies. What is often missing from those discussions, however, is the question, “How high are we capable of reaching?”

When cutting the budgets of time, resources and money for a project, the goal can quickly get out of reach. As the time allowance shrinks, you leave less room for planning which can cause a higher margin of error — thus requiring more time to fix. As resources shrink, either more time will be needed or more resources will need to be brought in near the end — most likely at greater cost. As funding is removed, the ability to respond to unforeseen issues (hardware failures, natural disasters, personnel issues, etc.) is greatly diminished and will result in the need for emergency funding.

Keep in mind, too, that the height of the low hanging fruit is relative to your own capabilities and the capabilities of your competition. Do not take on a project which, once initiated, could easily be taken over by a more capable competitor. At the same time, be on the look out for smaller competitors who have taken on more than they can handle.

The fruit which hang low today may be out of reach tomorrow. Be prepared to reach as high as you can, but hold back the temptation to reach too high — even if the project is just within your range.