The Power of the Big Picture

Planning is about breaking a larger process into small detailed steps. Sun Tzu's strategy is about seeing the big picture in every small situation. Sun Tzu starts his book with the five key elements because people tend to focus on one or two of these elements and lose sight of the others. All contests always combine philosophy, climate, ground, leadership, and methods. Most contests require time to resolve the contest among these factors. Narrow, short-term, myopic views provide little useful strategic information. For example, George Will certainly knows politics (and baseball) better than I do, but in this analysis of the presidential race, he looks at political history in terms the ground, that is, the physical location where battles have taken place. While always important, the ground is just one factor. History records the past of strategic battles, but past trends are less useful than understanding how the five factors worked together in each specific case and how that is different in the current case because of changes in climate.