Having recently read Sun Tzu's 'Art of War' I saw many similarities between war and managing projects. Call the enemies risk and chaos and most of the 2,500 year old advice applies quite well. So I am going to dedicate a few posts to what I humbly call: 'The Art of Project Management.' I give Sun Tzu full credit for his observations. I simply paraphrase him to shift the advice to my field.
1. Sun Tzu said: The good Project Managers of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, then waited for an opportunity of defeating the project risks.
2. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating risks is provided by the risks themselves.
3. Thus the good Project Manager is able to secure himself against defeat, but cannot make certain of defeating the risks.
4. Hence the saying: One may know how to conquer without being able to do it.
5. Security against defeat implies risk management; ability to defeat risks means Planning Risk Responses.
6. Risk Avoidance indicates insufficient strength; Risk Acceptance, a superabundance of strength.
7. The Project Manager who is skilled in Risk Avoidance hides in the most secret recesses of the earth; he who is skilled in Risk Acceptance flashes forth from the topmost heights of heaven. Thus on the one hand we have the ability to protect ourselves; on the other, a victory that is complete.
8. To see victory only when it is within the ken of the common herd is not the acme of excellence.
9. Neither is it the acme of excellence if you execute and succeed and the whole organization says "Well done!"
10. To lift an autumn hair is no sign of great strength; to see the sun and moon is no sign of sharp sight; to hear the noise of thunder is no sign of a sharp ear.
11. What the ancients called a clever Project Manager is one who not only succeeds but excels in succeeding with ease.
12. Hence his victories bring him neither reputation for wisdom nor credit for courage.
13. He succeeds in his projects by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory; for it means conquering risks that have already been mitigated.
14. Hence the skillful Project Manager puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible, and does not miss the moment for defeating his risks.
15. Thus it is in Project Management that the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.
16. The consummate leader cultivates the moral law, and strictly adheres to method and discipline; thus it is in his power to control success.
17. In respect of Risk Management, we have, firstly, Plan Risk Management; secondly, Identify Risks; thirdly, Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis; fourthly, Perform Quantitative Risk Analysis; fifthly, Plan Risk Responses; sixthly, Monitor and Control Risks; seventhly, Success.
18. Plan Risk Management owes its existence to the organization; Identify Risks to Plan Risk Management; Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis to Identify Risks; Perform Quantitative Risk Analysis to Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis; Plan Risk Responses to Perform Quantitative Risk Analysis; Monitor and Control Risks to Plan Risk Responses; Success to Monitor and Control Risks.
19. A successful project opposed to a failed one, is a pound's weight placed in the scale against a single grain.
20. The onrush of a well-planned project is like the bursting of pent-up waters into a chasm a thousand fathoms deep.