The Art of Strategy — Steps Towards Business Agility


Erik Schön
Jan 3, 2019 · 3 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). (All chapters; other reading and viewing formats).

The Art of Strategy is a short introduction to strategy through the insights of three successful strategists: Sun Tzu (c. 551–496 BC), John Boyd (1927–1997) and Simon Wardley (swardley). It is a modern reading of Sun Tzu’s Art of War — the strategy classic written in China around 500 BC — where I use the lenses of Boyd (OODA Loop inventor) and Wardley (Wardley Map inventor). Each chapter gently transforms Sun Tzu into a modern business setting and includes material from Boyd and Wardley in separate sections to complement and clarify Sun Tzu’s terse, poetic text. The idea is to serve strategy in 13 short chapters requiring 5–10 minutes reading time each.

I hope it will inspire more people to start strategizing together using Wardley Maps. I also wish for it to act as a gateway to the sources — The Art of War, A Discourse on Winning and Losing and Wardley Mapswhere you will find additional actionable insights, concrete examples and thinking patterns based on hands-on experiences.

Move beyond strategy as wars, battles and combat for power
towards strategy as individuals, teams or organizations fulfilling their purpose in situations outside their direct control, sometimes engaging with others desiring the same thing.

Move beyond strategy for survival in competitive environments
towards strategy for sustainably thriving in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world where the rate of change will never be slower than today.

Move beyond strategy development as planning, metrics and data
towards strategy development as choices for a harmonized direction for the organization based on regular assessments of stakeholders’ needs and the organization’s purpose.

Move beyond strategy deployment as execution, checking metrics and chasing targets towards strategy deployment as initiatives, decisions and actions in a harmonized direction by everyone everywhere in the organization based on high situational awareness.

Move beyond business as maximizing shareholder value
towards business as succeeding together with your stakeholders — maximizing outcomes while minimizing efforts.

Move beyond agility as a ready ability to move with quick, easy grace
towards agility as the ability to adapt to and influence situations more rapidly than competition, including timely break out of successful — but non-sustainable — patterns.

Move beyond leadership for managers and people in formal leader roles towards leadership as a service provided by — potentially all — people in the organization.

Move beyond leadership and ways of working using principles and practices
towards leadership and ways of working using applied systems thinking — via trade-offs and transcending trade-offs.

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.

All Chapters

Chapter 1 — Assessments
Chapter 2 — Challenges
Chapter 3 — Success
Chapter 4 — Setup
Chapter 5 — Momentum
Chapter 6 — Deployment
Chapter 7 — Engagement
Chapter 8 — Adaptations
Chapter 9 — Movements
Chapter 10 — Landscape
Chapter 11 — Situations
Chapter 12 — Disruption
Chapter 13 — Intelligence
Annex — Wardley Mapping Examples
Other reading and viewing formats

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

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