Strategic Management Texas A&M University MGMT 466
Dr. Victoria Buenger
Spring 2022
415E Wehner

Excerpt from Sun Tzu 

Course Schedule  


China, circa 600 B.C.

A well known source of principles of strategy is Sun Tzu. Here are some quotes from his book, The Art of War.  Want to see the full text of the book? Click here .  (There are many good editions of this work. The one I quote below is translated by Samuel B. Griffin and published by Oxford University Press.) 

On the Need for Planning

With more careful calculations, one can win; with less, one cannot. How much less chance of victory has one who makes no calculations at all! Therefore, I say: Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you will never be defeated. When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are sure to be defeated in every battle.

On the Need for Deception and Subtlety

All warfare is based on deception. Therefore, when capable of attacking, feign incapacity; when active in moving troops, feign inactivity. When near the enemy, make it seem that you are far away; when far away, make it seem that you are near. Hold out baits to lure the enemy. Strike the enemy when he is in disorder. Prepare against the enemy when he is secure at all points. Avoid the enemy for the time being when he is stronger. If your opponent is of angry temper, try to irritate him. If he is arrogant, try to encourage his egotism. Attack the enemy when he is unprepared, and appear where you are not expected.

On the Need for Speed

A speedy victory is the main object in war. If this is long in coming, weapons are blunted and morale depressed. If troops are attacking cities, their strength will be exhausted. When the army engages in protracted campaigns, the resources of the state will fall short. Thus, while we have heard of stupid haste in war, we have not yet seen a clever operation that was prolonged. For there has never been a protracted war which benefited a country

On the Need for Minimizing Losses

To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the supreme excellence. Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy. Next best is to disrupt his alliances by diplomacy. The next best is to attack his army. And the worst policy is to attack cities. Those skilled in war take all under heaven intact by strategic considerations. Thus, their troops are not worn out and their gains will be complete. This is the art of offensive strategy.

On the Need for Effective Leadership

The general who in advancing does not seek personal fame, and in retreating is not concerned with disgrace, but whose only purpose is to protect the country, is the precious jewel of the state. A general regards his men as infants who will march with him into the deepest valleys. He treats them as his own beloved sons and they will stand by him until death. If a general indulges his men but is unable to employ them, if he loves them but cannot enforce his commands, if the men are disorderly and he is unable to control them, they may be compared to spoiled children, and are useless.

Compare Sun Tzu to the U.S. Military, circa 2005

Military strategy is one of the richest sources of principles and ideas for business strategy. Below are some examples of military strategy principles, as taught today in the US Army. While these do not come expressly from Sun Tzu, you might notice how closely many of these ideas relate to principles articulated above.

  • Be assertive and proactive.

  • Organize around a single chain of command for simplicity and clarity.

  • Train to create an alert and skilled work force.

  • Have clear and simple goals and plans, and communicate them effectively at all levels.

  • Carefully coordinate and time actions of diverse units to maximize their contribution to success.

  • Concentrate effort at the decisive place and time.

  • Place your competitors at a disadvantage by surprising them; donít be surprised by them.

  • Be prepared and willing to adapt so that you can be flexible in response to changing situations.

  • Accomplish your objective with the least effort and expense necessary.


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