The Art of Strategy


Erik Schön
Jan 24, 2019 · 4 min read

What is strategy? Why do you need it? How do you do it? The Art Of Strategy provides timeless answers to these eternal questions. It is a modern reading of Sun Tzu’s Art of War using the lenses of strategists John Boyd and Simon Wardley (swardley). (Other reading and viewing formats).

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A very short summary of every chapter (3 min read)


The art of strategy is to succeed — by securing harmony among stakeholders and keeping competition off balance — through evolving better capabilities to influence, adapt and map (3 min read)

Chapter 1 — Assessments

Fundamental factors: purpose, landscape, climate, doctrine, leadership. Assessments using the fundamental factors. Surprise. OODA Loops. Wardley Maps. The Strategy Cycle. Relevant climatic patterns, doctrine and gameplays (11 min read)

Chapter 2 — Challenges

Psychological, social and financial costs and other challenges of strategy deployment — in particular when entering new areas. Speed. Inertia. Entropy. Friction. Relevant climatic patterns, doctrine and gameplays (8 min read)

Chapter 3 — Success

Unity of purpose. Succeed together with stakeholders. Avoid interference from stakeholders. Know stakeholders and yourself. The Art of Success. Vitality and Growth. Strategy on different levels. Resilience and Fragility. Relevant doctrine and gameplays (7 min read)

Chapter 4 — Setup

Create resilience. Avoid mistakes. Cultivate purpose and doctrine. Secure success before engagement starts. Interaction. Isolation. Anticipation. Prediction. Relevant climatic patterns, doctrine and gameplays (9 min read)

Chapter 5 — Momentum

Scaling organizations and ways of operating. Use the expected and positively surprising. Use creativity, focus and timing to build momentum. Novelty. Snowmobiles. Innovation. Relevant climatic patterns and doctrine (11 min read)

Chapter 6 — Deployment

How to shape competition and avoid being shaped: be first, be invisible, adapt in accord with stakeholders and discover competition’s setup. Relevant doctrine and gameplays (5 min read)

Chapter 7 — Engagement

How to engage with competition — including risks. How to communicate to secure unity of purpose and doctrine. Patterns for successful operations. Essence of moral conflict. Relevant climatic patterns, doctrine and gameplays (7 min read)

Chapter 8 — Adaptations

Need for adaptations in shifting situations. Leadership characteristics dangerous if overdone. Leadership and culture for adaptability. Fluidity, resilience and diversity. Relevant climatic patterns and doctrine (13 min read)

Chapter 9 — Movements

Move to optimize momentum. Observe stakeholders carefully. Less is better. Feedback and trust. Coherence of purpose and doctrine. Fast transients. Paths of least resistance. Determining movement. ‘Why’ of movement (11 min read)

Chapter 10 — Landscape

How to approach difficult areas. Difficult situations caused by lack of leadership. Moving against the will of stakeholders. Knowledge as a prerequisite for success. Maps of mapping. Relevant doctrine and gameplays (8 min read)

Chapter 11 — Situations

How to approach common, difficult situations, and, corresponding leadership characteristics. Speed. The importance of situational awareness and maps. Relevant climatic patterns, doctrine and gameplay (10 min read)

Chapter 12 — Disruption

Different types of disruption and destruction. Dealing with disruption. Destruction and creation. Peace, war, wonder. Opportunities. Relevant climatic patterns (13 min read)

Chapter 13 — Intelligence

Importance of intelligence operations. Success depends on foreknowledge based on five types of intelligence. The most important intelligence is double intelligence. Employ intelligence operations in predetermined directions (3 min read)

Annex — Wardley Mapping Examples

Links to illustrative examples of Wardley Mapping. Eco-system gameplay: Microsoft & GitHub. Plotting a path to a greener web. The cloud battle. Gameplay Examples: basic constraints, embrace & extend, customer isolation, threat acquisition, signal distortion, vertical movements, fighting with “open”, influencing your customers. Context-specific capability assessments. Turning around IBM. Platform gameplay: Amazon’s game engine. Leading an organization. Leveraging diverse expertise. Serverless development (4 min read)


Explanation of key terms and Wardley Map symbols (15 min read)


Thanks to Simon Wardley (swardley) for Wardley Maps; Bob Marshall and Chet Richards for inspiration; readers for feedback and encouragement (2 min read)


Borchardt, Boyd, Department of Defense, Echevarria, Freedman, Freeman, Holling, Lamb, Marshall, Mårtensson, McDermott, Osinga, Pujadas/Thompson/Venters/Wardley, Richards, Rivera, Schön, Schwandt, Stalk/Stewart, Sun Tzu, Wardley, Yuen (4 min read)

Other Reading and Viewing Formats

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Boyd’s summary of “The Art of War” and corresponding chapters (Patterns of Conflict).

This is provided as Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International by the author, Erik Schön.

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