The Art of Strategy: Contents

A very short summary of all parts

What is strategy? Why do you need it? How do you do it? And, how can you be more certain to succeed? 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). Other reading and viewing formats.

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Summary of “The Art of War” and corresponding parts. Illustration: John Boyd and Erik Schön

Contents: A very short summary of all parts

(4 min read)

Introduction: What is strategy and why do you need it?

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 (3 min read)

1. Assessments: How to assess, prepare and shape

Fundamental factors: purpose, landscape, climate, doctrine, leadership. Assessments using the fundamental factors. Surprise. OODA Loops. Wardley Maps. The Strategy Cycle. Relevant climatic patterns, doctrine and gameplays (11 min read)

2. Challenges: How to use and reduce inertia, entropy and friction

Psychological, social and financial costs and other challenges of strategy deployment — in particular when entering new areas. Speed. Inertia. Entropy. Friction. Relevant climatic patterns, doctrine and gameplays (8 min read)

3. Success: How to succeed together with stakeholders

Unity of purpose. Succeed together with stakeholders. Avoid interference from stakeholders. Know stakeholders and yourself. The Art of Success. Vitality and Growth. Strategy on different levels. Resilience and Fragility. Relevant doctrine and gameplays (7 min read)

4. Setup: How to create resilience

Create resilience. Avoid mistakes. Cultivate purpose and doctrine. Secure success before engagement starts. Interaction. Isolation. Anticipation. Prediction. Relevant climatic patterns, doctrine and gameplays (9 min read)

5. Momentum: How to use creativity, focus and timing

Scaling organizations and ways of operating. Use the expected and positively surprising. Use creativity, focus and timing to build momentum. Novelty. Snowmobiles. Innovation. Relevant climatic patterns and doctrine (11 min read)

6. Shaping: How to shape and avoid being shaped

How to shape competition and avoid being shaped: be first, be invisible, adapt in accord with stakeholders and discover competition’s setup. Relevant doctrine and gameplays (5 min read)

7. Engagement: How to engage using surprise

How to engage with competition — including risks. How to communicate to secure unity of purpose and doctrine. Patterns for successful operations. Essence of moral conflict. Relevant climatic patterns, doctrine and gameplays (7 min read)

8. Adaptations: How to adapt to shifting situations

Need for adaptations in shifting situations. Leadership characteristics dangerous if overdone. Leadership and culture for adaptability. Fluidity, resilience and diversity. Relevant climatic patterns and doctrine (13 min read)

9. Movements: How to move to optimize momentum

Move to optimize momentum. Observe stakeholders carefully. Less is better. Feedback and trust. Coherence of purpose and doctrine. Fast transients. Paths of least resistance. Determining movement. ‘Why’ of movement (11 min read)

10. Landscape: How to approach difficult areas

How to approach difficult areas. Difficult situations caused by lack of leadership. Moving against the will of stakeholders. Knowledge as a prerequisite for success. Maps of mapping. Relevant doctrine and gameplays (9 min read)

11. Situations: How to handle difficult situations

How to approach common, difficult situations, and, corresponding leadership characteristics. Speed. The importance of situational awareness and maps. Relevant climatic patterns, doctrine and gameplay (10 min read)

12. Disruption: How to disrupt and avoid being disrupted

Different types of disruption and destruction. Dealing with disruption. Destruction and creation. Peace, war, wonder. Opportunities. Relevant climatic patterns (13 min read)

13. Intelligence: How to use intelligence to create foreknowledge

Importance of intelligence operations. Success depends on foreknowledge based on five types of intelligence. The most important intelligence is double intelligence. Employ intelligence operations in predetermined directions (3 min read)

Annex: Wardley Mapping Examples

Links to illustrative examples of Wardley Mapping. Eco-system gameplay: Microsoft & GitHub. Plotting a path to a greener web. The cloud battle. Gameplay Examples: basic constraints, embrace & extend, customer isolation, threat acquisition, signal distortion, vertical movements, fighting with “open”, influencing your customers. Context-specific capability assessments. Saving Your Business with Wardley Maps. Platform gameplay: Amazon’s game engine. Mapping immersive experiences at BBC. A Wardley Map of the company NVIDIA in 2020. Turning around IBM. Reverse engineering AirBnB’s strategy. Visualizing the work of a software delivery lead. Leading an organization. Leveraging diverse expertise. Building a business from a great idea using AWS Lambda services. Serverless development. Traditional life industry. Evolution of Architectural Components in Software Systems. (6 min read)

Glossary: Explanation of key terms and symbols

(22 min read)

Acknowledgements: Standing on the shoulders of giants

Thanks to scholars, researchers and translators: Ames, Beng, Cleary, Clements, Denma Translation Group, Giles, Griffith, Harris, Huynh, Mair, Minford, Nylan, Pettersson, Sawyer, Trapp, Wing, Yuen and Zieger; Simon Wardley (swardley) for Wardley Maps; Bob Marshall and Chet Richards for inspiration; readers for feedback and encouragement (4 min read)

Sources: Where to learn more

Borchardt, Boyd, Bungay, Department of Defense, Echevarria, Endsley, Fogleman, Freedman, Freeman, Holling, Kissinger, Lamb, Marshall, Modig, Mårtensson, McDermott, Osinga, Pujadas/Thompson/Venters/Wardley, Reinertsen, Richards, Rivera, Schön, Schwandt, Stalk/Stewart, Sun Tzu, Wardley, Yuen (4 min read)

Other Reading and Viewing Formats

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

Written by

Executive and strategist who has successfully developed and deployed strategy for over 20 years in small, medium and large organizations.

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