1.6.3 Shifting Priorities

Sun Tzu seven keys to how missions change according to temporary conditions.

Art of War Quote: 

"You must predict the enemy to overpower him and win."
Sun Tzu's The Art of War 10:3:3

Perspective: 

"Goals are simply tools to focus your energy in positive directions, these can be changed as your priorities change, new ones added, and others dropped." O. Carl Simonton

General Principle: 

Changing conditions not fixed goal posts determine current mission priorities.

Situation: 

People's motivation changes over time, both gradually and suddenly. Our goals and values change their relative importance depending upon our situation. For example, our long-term goals are suddenly very unimportant when we find ourselves in a life-or-death situation. Since strategy depends on predicting what others will do, this complex array of desires makes prediction difficult as it changes from moment to moment. We can never perfectly predict people's behavior because we can never understand exactly what is motivating them at the moment. This means that there are limits to how much we can depend on our alliance. Over time, allies can actually become enemies, depending on the situation. Most partnerships fall apart because our interests naturally diverge over time.

Opportunity: 

Our mission as a whole is the most enduring part of our strategic positions (1.6 Mission Values). Sun Tzu's strategy gives us an easy-to-see system for understanding the hierarchy of motivations that relates to everything else we know about positions (1.6.2 Types of Motivations). While the specific order of priorities on this list can change from moment to moment, the list as a whole changes very slowly if at all. This hierarchy also tells us generally how the five different types of motivations tend to change over time, which are more temporary and which are longer lasting. This gives us a critical head start in terms of predicting the choices that people will make. We combine this understanding with another key aspect of our strategic model, knowing how changing conditions affect positions ((1.4.1 Climate Shift).

Key Methods: 

There are many different levels to Mission. Each person has their own private constellation of values and desires within a general framework. In everyday life, we can think of some of our goals as short-term and others as long-term, but we base much of our interaction with others upon knowing which of their motivations we can predict and which we cannot.

  1. The priorities of our mission change as conditions change. This include both conditions in the external environment (1.4 The External Environment) and conditions within a person or organization (1.5 Internal Elements).
  2. Both predictable and unpredictable changes in conditions affect motives. This means some changes in priorities will be predictable but others will not. (2.3.2 Reaction Unpredictability).
  3. The most regular changes in priorities come from our cycle of internal needs and appetites. There is a natural cycle in our competing desires. The lowest levels of motivations are the most temporary because we know what our physical needs require and how we need to address them (1.8.3 Cycle Time).
  4. Other predictable changes are linked to external cycles of climate. The external environment can also be predictable in its effect upon our priorities. We categorize these changes under climate, both the physical, social, and business climates (1.4.1 Climate Shift).
  5. These changes are predictable because they are linked to the external passage of time. Whether we are looking at ourselves or others, we can understand that at certain times of day or year, we need to address different sets of needs (3.1.6 Time Limitations). 
  6. Unpredictable, non-cyclic internal and external events also affect priorities. These events can offer us either unexpected opportunities or unexpected problems. In either case, we must change our immediate priorities in order to address them (3.2 Opportunity Creation).
  7. Knowing the events that affect others gives us insight into their current priorities. When we cannot predict changes in priorities, we must immediately adapt our viewpoint based on our knowledge of events. People cannot do everything at once and must change their priorities in order to address events (3.1.1 Resource Limitations ).

Illustration: 

Let us look at some simple examples of how priorities change in each of these categories.

  1. The priorities of our mission change as conditions change. No matter how much more important our professional goals are over the long term, we must take time every day to eat and sleep to address our physical needs.
  2. Both predictable and unpredictable changes in conditions affect motives. We can predict when we will get sleepy but not when we will get ill.
  3. The most regular changes in priorities come from our cycle of internal needs and appetites. We will get hungry every day and sleepy every night.
  4. Other predictable changes are linked to external cycles in the climate. For example, most of us work on economic and professional needs during the day because that is when we traditionally do business. Our emotional mission is more often addressed in the evening or on weekends. During summer, we take vacation. Certain business climate changes, such as Christmas shopping, are also predictable. At tax time, we will pay our taxes. 
  5. These changes are predictable because they are linked to the external passage of time. Day and night, winter and summer, taxes, and human aging are all predictable.
  6. Unpredictable, non-cyclic internal and external events also affect priorities.  We can get sick. An economic collapse in an industry can arise.
  7. Knowing the events that affect others gives us insight into their current priorities. If we know someone has lost a lot of money, we can expect that they will focus more on activities relating to immediately raising money.

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