The Art and Science of Strategy: Applying the teachings of Sun Tzu from 2500 years ago

from Shubha A T, reporting from the Product Summit 

Speaker:  Ratinder Ahuja, CTO & VP, McAfee

Sun Tsu in the Art of War, defined strategy, one of the most authoritative works on strategy. Strategy in Sun Tsu’s definition is a systematic way to constantly improve your position.

What are the building blocks of strategy?

While there are various interpretations of Sun Tsus work, the model I follow has three pillars

  1. Source of opportunity
  2. Competitive unit
  3. Progressive cycle
  • Source of opportunity – how is opportunity created? Sun Tsu has this concept of heaven and earth. There are things we can control, and we cannot control. Trends, Marketplace
    • Once we understand trends and how they affect target markets, it will help us answer questions on how to exploit a trend.
    • Vision is about recognizing these trends and the profit opportunities they present. As a product manager, your responsibility is to have a deep understanding of the market, and trends and exploit this to build a great product.
    • Which opportunities to pursue? At any point of time there are a lot of opportunities, while you need to take a call on what opportunities to pursue.
  • Competitive unit – Mission, Leadership, Processes. Your competitive unit has to have a deep knowledge of the market, what is the shifting trend or change that is affecting that market. The vacuum that is created will be filled, either by you or someone else. To do this, you have to gather knowledge, and intersect that with the shifting trend. Finally, action is where you innovate, with agility and speed. And finally when you put it in the market, you succeed or fail.
    • A multitude of things can go wrong in this cycle, knowledge might be incomplete, and actions are inadequate. The only way to compensate for this is speed.
  • Progress cycle – Knowledge, Vision, Actions, Positioning. This is further expanded in the text.

“There is no final victory, no resting place. It is a never-ending process.”

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