I am not getting the opportunity to do many new posts on Sun Tzu because of the campaign (see VoteGaryG.com for posts on politics and Sun Tzu), but recent communication with one of our members, Shane (wafukiwi), started me thinking about the role of the five elements in Sun Tzu's system.
I normally talk about the five elements (mission, climate, ground, command, and methods) as a system giving us a complete perspective on strategic systems. However, they are much more than that.
There is a sense in this system that each of these five elements are actually unseen actors in every situation. The situation emerges from their interactions, which often misinterpreted because those actors are hidden unless we look for them.
Climate is the actor bringing in changes. Ground is the actor providing stability and resources. Command is the actor making individual decisions. Methods is the actor guiding group interaction. However, the key actor is mission because mission is the director, giving meaning the roles of the other actors.
Seeing our mission as an actor can be especially difficult. In our normal perspective, we see mission as a person's motivation. Bell invented the telephone because he had a mission of improving communication. However, when we see mission as an actor, we think of the mission of improving communication as the director. Bell as a commander and the telephone as a method are also actors, but under direction of a mission, the universal desire or drive to improve communication. That same director guided the creation of the cell phone and the Internet.