In the corporate world, managers and senior executives often find themselves in a situation where their subordinates, willing or unwillingly are unable to execute certain set of tasks or follow a set of instructions. This leads to a chaotic regime, where the manager is not able to get a hold of his team and the team on the whole does not have a sense of direction. The answer to such managerial problems lies in a war manual that was written over 2500 years ago written by a Chinese General and Taoist philosopher called Sun Tzu. The great general wrote the Art of War manual that comprises of 13 chapters. Sun Tzu’s scripts speak about planning, waging war, use of resources, identifying strengths and weaknesses, leadership and many other qualities.
Sun Tzu says, “If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the general is to blame. But, if orders are clear and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their officers.”
In a situation where a general (authoritative figure) has given his subordinates a set of commands to execute or instructions to follow and the instructions are not followed properly, the Art of War suggests there could be two reasons for this:
- The instructions or commands given by the general are not clear and cannot be understood by the ground staff.
- The ground staff is disobedient
If you are not sure which one of the above 2 scenarios are the reason for the improper execution you may try the following:
- Repeat the instructions and make sure they are understood by your foot soldiers or subordinates.
- If the instruction are followed well then the problem is solved, however on the contrary, if the staff is disobedient, the general must resort to punitive measures.
- Once a few of the disobedient ones are punished, the rest of the staff will acknowledge the degree of your seriousness and follow the instructions.
The story about Sun Tzu and the concubines:
Before Sun Tzu was appointed by King Wu, he was to pass a test to train 180 concubines into a sharp network of spies. The great general in the presence of the king, he appointed 2 commanders who were the king’s most favored ladies and divided the company into 2 halves. When the concubines were ordered to turn right, both the concubines giggled. He then repeated the command and the same followed. Sun Tzu, against the king’s will, ordered the execution of both the commanders and replaced them with new ones. Thus all the women understood the price they had to pay on account of their disobedience. Thereafter, all the concubines followed the instructions and maneuvered flawlessly.
Since this is not 500BC we do not suggest executing your employees.