Mao Zedong was one of the greatest military commanders in history, though he downplayed his own achievements. Field Marshal Montgomery, famous for rescuing two trapped US armies during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, considered Mao’s victory at the Battle of the Four Crossings on par with the campaigns of legendary generals like Alexander the Great and Napoleon.
Mao triumphed despite lacking critical resources. His peasant army had no radios or other means of communication. Yet he united their efforts through simple but effective principles. Mao’s “Four Nevers” standing order gave clear guidance to his commanders: “Never be afraid to negotiate; never be afraid to retreat; never be afraid to change your plans; never be afraid to attack.”
To teach tactics to the masses, Mao condensed complex manoeuvres into four rhyming verses set to song. As the peasants marched to battle, they sang: “When the enemy advances, we retreat; when he escapes, we harass; when he retreats, we pursue; when he is tired, we attack.” As Mao explained: “Those sixteen characters are the basic directives for a counter-campaign against encirclement, for both strategic defence and offence, for strategic withdrawal and counteroffensive. Everything else was just an elaboration.”
Much in the business world today can be called “just an elaboration” that often gets in the way of what your organisation should really be doing. For those who want to dampen this noise and instead get pragmatic advice about how to improve your organisation quickly, painlessly and inexpensively follow me here over the next few months as I explore the 40 principles (guides to action) at the heart of Wardley mapping — a revolutionary approach to increasing your awareness of what’s happening around you and your organisation’s ability to adapt and out-compete rivals.
(Mao story h/t @godfreeTrh)