Evaluation Of Strategies

It might seem like all this planning and formulating and evaluating is a lot of work and a waste of time, but by doing all this preparation you are saving a lot of time and effort in the long run.

Laozi pointed out that when a problem is difficult to recognize, it is easy to solve.

When it is easy to recognize, it is difficult to solve.

It’s easy to recognize when it is a big problem.

Since it is a big problem, it is difficult to deal with.

At this planning stage you want to recognize the problems, so you can change them now.

You want to foresee major difficulties and “nip ‘em in the bud.”

If trickling streams are not blocked they will
become great rivers.
If you don’t extinguish the smallest flames, what will you do about a great inferno?
If you do not eliminate the two-leaf sapling, how will you use your ax when the tree has grown?

–The Six Secret Teachings

Strategy must be evaluated for effectiveness,
probability of success, net gain and efficiency.
Hence, the wise general must consider both
favorable and unfavorable factors in deliberations.
By taking into account the unfavorable within the favorable factors, he ensures his plan is feasible.


By taking into account the favorable within the unfavorable, he can resolve difficulties.

—The Art of War

The evaluation has been divided into two categories.

1. Subjective Evaluation

2. Objective (numerical) Evaluation

Subjective Evaluation

A general’s leadership ability is vital during times of war.

His appraisal of the battle situation is critical to the success or failure of the campaign.

He who knows when to fight and when not to fight will win; 

He who knows how to deploy large and small forces will win; 

He whose whole army is united in purpose will win; 

He who is well prepared to seize opportunity will win;

—The Art of War

At this point, we are just considering the Individual— to borrow a phrase from the U.S. Army—an “army of one.”

But it’s good to consider the factors mentioned above.

You need to know when to fight and when not to fight.

You need to know when to commit large or small expenditures of energy, time and effort.

Your whole self must be united in purpose (and it is often our unacknowledged fears and limiting beliefs that are actually holding us back).

And, finally, you must be well prepared to seize opportunity.

There are four areas you, as the “general”, should particularly attend to.

These four areas include:

1. Selection of strategic targets

2. The ability to create strategic advantage

3. The ability to fit the strategy to the situation

4. A sense of strategic timing

Strategic target

The success of any military conquest depends largely on what kind of enemy the attacking force is facing.
If battle is initiated by the attacking force, then it is important that the right enemy is chosen.
The same principle applies to you.
Those that the ancients referred to as excelling at warfare conquered those who were easy to conquer.
The victories of those that excelled in warfare were not marked by wisdom or courageous achievement.
Thus their victories were free from error. One who is free from error directs his measures toward certain victory, conquering those who are already defeated.

—The Art of War

Strategic fit

After selecting the target, the next stage of the evaluation process is assessing the suitability of the strategy to the battle situation.

The wise general is one who can:

Evaluate the enemy’s plan to determine which strategy will succeed and which will not.

Deliberate and assess the situation, then move.

—The Art of War

Strategic Advantage

As part of an effective strategy, the general must be able to create strategic advantage to secure victory.
Thus I say that victory can be created.
For even if the enemy has a large force, I can prevent him from engaging me.

—The Art of War

Victory in war is not dependant on having a large force alone.

What is equally important as numbers is the training of the people involved and the appropriate use of strategy.

For example, if you can conceal your strategy but you know the opponents strategy, then they will never know where, when or how you are going to attack.

They will have to defend everywhere, resulting in a scattering of his forces which favors the attacking force.

As the saying goes, “divide and conquer.”

The attacking force can achieve relative supremacy at the point of contact by concentrating the brunt of his forces on the enemy’s few.


Those who excel in warfare, even when the enemy’s forces are strong and numerous, can force them to divide and separate, unable to rescue each other, and suffer enemy attacks without mutually knowing about it.

–Military Methods

There are many other ways a smaller force can prevent a larger force from overtaking them.

The following are some examples of how to avoid a direct confrontation with a force that is larger than your own.

A. Keep a low profile.

If you keep a low profile, you will not attract as much animosity from the enemy. This can be achieved through humility and feigned vulnerability.


In the beginning, be as shy as a young maiden to entice the enemy to lower his defenses.

—The Art of War

B. Attacking the enemy through their strength.

In order to attack the strong you must nurture them to make them even stronger, and increase them to make them even more extensive.
What is too strong will certainly break;
what is too extended must have deficiencies.
Attack the strong through his strength.

–The Six Secret Teachings

C. Seizing something that is of great value to the enemy.

Exploit the advantages conferred by the tactical balance of power.
Increase the enemy’s excesses, seize what he loves. Then we, acting from without, can cause a response from within.

–Sima Fa


If someone asks: “What should I do when faced with a large and well-organized enemy troop about to invade my territory?”
My reply is, “Seize what he loves, and he will conform to your desires.”

—The Art of War

In warfare, this could include things like kidnapping high commanders or stealing battle plans.

Or as the high school football coach used to say, “Sack the Quarterback.”

Seizing something of value to the enemy allows you to gain strategic advantage.

The advantage gained should be sustained throughout the battle or at least buy some time for the smaller force to devise a better battle plan.

Strategic advantage can also be brought to bear when the enemy leaves gaps in their defenses.

For example, if he chooses not to defend a particular area, then that area can easily be taken.

When those who excel at warfare discern an enemy’s strength, they know where he has a shortcoming.
When they discern an enemy’s insufficiency, they know where he has a surplus.
They perceive victory as easily as seeing the sun and the moon. Their measures for victory are like using water to conquer fire.

–Military Methods


In addition to capitalizing on situations for victory, the capable general also ensures he has a strong defense.
Therefore, those adept in warfare ensure that he is in a position of non-defeat, while never missing the opportunity to defeat the enemy.

—The Art of War

In order to ensure victory and achieve a situation of non-defeat, one must create and find strategic advantage.

This requires the use of both offensive and defensive strategies.

And even when a seemingly effective strategy is adopted, there is still a need to try and maintain and strengthen your strategic advantage.

If an advantageous strategy is already adopted, there is still a need to create advantageous situations so as to support its accomplishment.
By ‘situations,’ I mean one must change according to the circumstances so as to obtain advantages.

—The Art of War

Strategic Timing

Timing is one of the most important aspects of conducting an operation.

External conditions are always changing. And more specifically, timing will affect the precise moment to launch your campaign.

It will also affect what strategy to employ.

There are times it is suitable to engage the enemy and times it is not.

There are also certain moments when it is more fitting to engage the enemy.

In the early stages of a battle, the spirits of the forces are high; they will gradually flag. 

At the end stage, their spirits are low and they are thinking of returning home. 

Therefore, those adept in warfare avoid attacking the enemy when their spirits are high, but attack them when their spirits are


—The Art of War

Objective/Numerical Evaluation

The subjective evaluation of strategy, proposed four interlocking elements of strategic target, fit, advantage and timing.

These can provide an indication of how effective a strategy might be.

In addition, it’s also good to do a numerical/quantitative analysis. This can include complex calculations or simple budgeting of time and money.

The elements of the science of war are first, measurement of space; second, estimation of expenses,
third, calculation of forces; fourth, weighing possibilities; and fifth, planning for victory.

—The Art of War

After all that analysis, of every shape and sort imaginable, it’s time to get moving—to start “doing” something.

If you’ve factored everything in and tweaked and adjusted the goals and strategies, it’s time to start implementing.

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