While the lessons from the entire book, The Art of War, can be applied to processes in PMBOK®, there are some deeper lessons that go beyond PMBOK® . The conflicting needs and interests of the stakeholders are the root of conflicts, and a project manager is expected to balance them. The skills, insight, and wisdom needed to contain the resulting organizational power games and politics, however, is not in the scope of PMBOK®. Often a project manager is faced with a situation in which a slight mistake may result in dire consequences for some of the stakeholders. The existence of sharks and wolves is also very well known in the corporate world. Sometimes, there are deliberate attempts to send ambiguous messages among employees to cause confusion and conflict.
At times, a project manager finds himself in a position in which he has to handle a steering committee that acts like an assassination committee. PMBOK® does discuss the processes and influence of the enterprise environment over project outcomes; The Art of War actually makes a very clear case for instilling a sense of discipline in the team. Sun Tzu clearly states the importance of secrecy and distributing based on the situation. Making such decisions requires wisdom and insight. Sun Tzu clearly advocates shorter campaigns that lead to quick wins in The Art of War.
Sun Tzu says that “Our own flags should be substituted for those of the enemy and their chariots mingled and used in conjunction with ours. The captured soldiers should be kindly treated and kept”.
Project manager hears, “Learn to make success pay for itself. Use successes to augment the project execution capabilities. Do the same for lessons learned, knowledge bases, reusable components and materials, etc.”
Sun Tzu says that ”In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns“.
Project manager hears, “Avoid long and expensive projects. Define smaller projects instead“.
Sun Tzu says that ”There are no more than five cardinal tastes (sour, acrid, salt, sweet, bitter), yet combinations of them yield more flavours than can ever be tasted“.
Project manager hears, “The project’s limited resources resources can be mixed, combined and rearranged to come up with better ways to get the work done within the constraints.”
Sun Tzu says that ”If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and know Earth, you may make your victory complete“.
Project manager hears, “Knowing your strengths and weaknesses improves the chances of project success. Knowledge of the business environment and the ground business realities further enhances chances to attain project success“.
Sun Tzu says that ”In battle, there are no more than two methods of attack—the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of manoeuvres“.
Project manager hears, “When dealing with projects, rely on standard and innovative methods. The combination of these two gives you many options to choose from, and you never run out of options“.