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18 Apr 2013

Top Seven Sun Tzu Quotes: #7 Effective Orders

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series Sun Tzu Top 7

1982 Reprint Oxford University Press 1963

1982 Reprint
Oxford University Press 1963

Responses to my original Sun Tzu post have encouraged me to write more about important Sun Tzu quotes from The Art of War. At number seven, I have:

If orders which are consistently effective are used in instructing the troops, they will be obedient.

So many times, company executives issue orders that aren’t implemented. Consequently, they and the company lose credibility with their workforces. This happens for many reasons, but here are a few:

Therefore, to rebuild or to prevent deterioration of credibility, keep the following in mind:

  • Give one small, successful order rather than one grandiose, unsuccessful one.
  • When rebuilding credibility, begin with smaller orders and after success work up to larger ones.
  • Avoid, under all circumstances, giving orders that won’t be carried out or follow upped.
  • Put context around the new order by prioritizing with outstanding ones.
  • Emphasize implementation over idea; a good implemented idea is far better than an unimplemented excellent one.
  • Focus on realistically determining what the team can tackle; inoculate yourself from machismo and Pollyannaism.
  • Keep outstanding orders few so you can effectively follow up.

We don’t need employees thinking that this is “just another initiative.” Keep it focused, keep it successful.


Note: Versions of this quote usually appear in the 49th paragraph of the ninth chapter, “Marches”, of The Art of War.


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