This part of the book explains the basic components of the competitive world and how they work. It provides the basic framework for comparing the strengths and weakness of competing strategic positions. The concepts in these chapters are also briefly explained on our page on position awareness.
The first chapter, "Planning," explores the five key elements that define competitive position (mission, climate, ground, command, and methods) and how to evaluate your competitive strengths against those of your competition. This discussion ends with the idea that information in a competitive environment is limited and that perceptions are often very different from reality. This difference between objective and subjective information is one of the principle leverage points for the working of his strategic system.
Chapter 2, "Going to War," defines the economic nature of competition. It explains how success requires making winning pay, which in turn requires limiting the cost of competition and conflict. This chapter is critical to understanding why Sun Tzu teaches "winning without conflict." By definition, conflict is expensive. Beating opponents and winning battles may satisfy the ego, but Sun Tzu considers that goal a foolish one.
The final chapter, "Using Spies," focuses on the most important topic of all: information gathering. It specifically discusses the value and methods of developing good information sources, specifically the five types of sources you need and the way you must manage them. In this final chapter, Sun Tzu makes it clear that all wars are, at their heart, information wars.