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Staff Pick: Sun Tzu & Management

Name: Fakhrul Adam Bin Jose M Cruz @ Fauzi Cruz
Book: Sun Tzu & Management
Author: Khoo Kheng-Hor
Publisher:  Pelanduk Publications (M) Sdn Bhd
Language: English
Year: 1992

Book Synopsis:

What does a 2,500-year-old Chinese military strategist have to do with management?

A lot. The war principles as found in Sun Tzu’s book, the Art of War, has much in common with the present-day aim of achieving success through people in business if one cares to relate Sun Tzu’s saying to the modern context, minus the archaic fondness for grandiose expressions.

Sun Tzu’s Art of War is a classical treatise on military strategy and tactics written approximately 2,500 years ago. It has inspired some of history’s greatest military victories. Asian warlords for centuries have followed Sun Tzu’s principles. Modern leaders as disparate as Mao Tse-Tung and general Dwight Eisenhower have used Sun Tzu’s precepts to change the shape of the world. Although it is first and foremost a military work, its significance is not merely confined to military affairs— much of the book is devoted to the relationships between warfare and politics, diplomacy, philosophy, and management.

According to SUN TZU & MANAGEMENT, a manager seeking success must work towards controlling himself as well as both the internal and external environments. He must look within himself as the starting point in developing an awareness of his strengths and weaknesses. He must view his immediate internal environment and learn to cope with office politicking and other corporate power games. The manager must then learn the relevance of Sun Tzu’s principles in formulating and implementing strategies in the increasingly competitive world of business. Sun Tzu & Management also explains how the Japanese have benefited from Sun Tzu’s Art Of War to become the world’s leading economic power today

Despite Sun Tzu’s archaic fondness for grandiose expressions, his advice on timing, maneuvering, flexibility, and complete knowledge of the enemy’s strengths and weaknesses remain as powerful today as when it was first written. Sun Tzu & Management is a practical book designed to be enjoyed and to fill a gap in management literature. It covers what should be familiar ground and is based entirely on real-life situations and observations. It will undoubtedly provoke thought and will stimulate managers to assess their own performance and to take positive steps to become more effective in their workplace.


In this book, the author is relating Sun Tzu’s war strategy with today’s management which can be very beneficial even in this modern era. The five basic approaches from Sun Tzu’s principles in the Art Of War can be applied to any business problems. By understanding these principles, one is able to apply them effectively. The five basic approaches or as I would say, the ‘recipe’ for problem-solving are:

  • Serious approaches –  to take things seriously, treating our daily work as some form of warfare rather than just a 9-to-5 job.
  • Contingency approaches – the flexible use of various principles and techniques for different environments rather than just relying on the “one best way”.
  • Multidisciplinary approaches – a combination of many disciplines to enhance the study.
  • Human resource approaches – seeking support for employee development and growth for effectiveness. 
  • Systems approach – to recognise the interaction of all parts of an organisation as well as inter-organisational dependency in a complex relationship. 
  • The interpretations in this book are not meant to guarantee success but rather to offer suggestions to provoke the reader into thinking strategically and leading by example. For that reason, one can develop their own strategies when it comes to “waging war” with rivals in the office or the market.

This book received a lot of positive feedback after it was published. One of the reasons must be because the book is an easy-to-read explanation of Sun Tzu’s war principles. A key takeaway from his book is that everything that we do on a daily basis ought to be a smart and calculated move to ensure that we don’t find ourselves in an undesirable situation.

“No ruler should put troops into the field because he is angry; no general should fight because he is resentful. Move when there is a benefit to be gained, quit when there is no more advantage. For an angry man can later become happy, a resentful man becomes pleased, but a kingdom once destroyed can never be restored nor the dead be brought back to life.”

A highly recommended read!


As water shapes its flow according to the ground, an army wins by relating to the enemy it faces. Just as water retains no constant shape, in war there shall be no constant condition. Thus, the one who can modify his tactics according to the enemy situation shall be victorious and may be called the divine commander.”


More planning shall give more chances of victory while less planning, fewer chances of victory. So how about totally without planning? By this measure, I can clearly foresee victory or defeat.”


“There are five dangerous faults which a general should not have in his character. Recklessness leads to destruction; cowardice ends in capture; quick temper enables you to make him look foolish; delicacy in honour causes sensitivity to shame; overly compassionate for his men exposes him to worry and harassment. These five faults, in general, can seriously ruin military operations.”

Part 3: KNOW YOURSELF, Page 31

Put your men in positions where there is no escape and even when facing death, they will not run. In preparing for death, what is there that cannot be achieved? Officers and men will both do their best. In a desperate situation, they lose their sense of fear; without a way out, they shall stand firm. When they are deep within the enemy territory they are bound together and without an alternative, they will fight hard. Thus, without the need of supervision, they will be alert, and without being asked, they will support their general; without being ordered, they will trust their general.”

Part 6: “PEOPLE” MANAGEMENT, Page 79

This book is available at the Perdana Library. If you are interested in reading or borrowing the book, please visit our Library in Putrajaya, or contact us at 03-8885 8961 (Library Counter).