Art of War

I am feeling extremely euphoric now. It has been more than a year since I had the sudden dreadful realisation that so many things about my department is wrong especially in the area of management. But as I looked back at my journey, I realised that God placed me in such a place for a time like this.

My HOD roped me in to jumpstart some long term planning for the department direction. Then while I was having a work chat with my director, I had a eureka moment and I knew what needed to be done to solve our department’s problems. I proposed the idea to my HOD who was supportive but the supervisors under him, that is, my direct bosses were not.

So my HOD laid to rest my idea until such a time when our CEO was convinced we were clueless about our direction and demanded we do something concrete about it. Then my HOD decided to resurrect my idea and the whole of last week was a mad rush to prepare the presentation, clear it with the bosses and today was the D-day.

Contrary to my expectation, there was a vigorous discussion about our direction and more importantly our role in the organisation. Apparently our confusion stemmed from our core management’s lack of appreciation and thought given to our role. We were vindicated somehow and got the headcount we requested.

But what was most interesting was observing the various power plays at work with those at the top management. Maybe I second guessed some of their intentions but nonetheless, it was brilliant brilliant work of art. I don’t think I will ever be able to think so strategically but it is still a skill to be able to appreciate it.

To help you understand the scheme of things, this is the reporting line in my organisation.

Officer (me) > Supervisor > HOD > Director > Top boss > CEO

1. Know – my top boss probably knew I had it in me to drive a positive change. He planted ideas in me again and again and somehow when the time was right, I started planting ideas in my HOD’s mind which eventually came to fruition. They probably knew that an idea has to come from bottom up to get buy in than from top down.

2. Stimulate – my top boss has a director who is very dynamic and loud. He told me to approach him to gather data for my presentation and so I did. Somehow this action soothed his ego so much he gave me many pointers in my presentation to fight for our headcount. And when I did use them in the presentation, this director took ownership so much that he ended up fighting for us even though he wasn’t my director. I was really touched by this action.

3. Teach – when my top boss told me to gather information to put together the history of my department, I had no idea how it would help us in the presentation but I obeyed anyway. But the process of finding out and understanding how our past is different from the present gave me strong perspective of why we needed extra headcount. My top boss didn’t tell me the lesson, he got me to find out myself and it was a valuable learning journey.

4. Threaten – during my presentation there was another director who was pretty condescending about our contribution to the organisation and he raised several valid points. So my CEO very matter-of-factly suggested that since they didn’t appreciate our work, perhaps we could work on a model of offering our services only to those who needed it. The same director came back quickly to say that since we provided a supporting role, it wouldn’t be right to offer it selectively. In other words, he admitted unwittingly that he couldn’t do without our contribution. Brilliant!

5. Vindicate – All this extra brain work we had to put in was due to one other top boss who was making life difficult for us. He pushed us to our limit and demanded unreasonable commitments from us. I give credit to my HOD for finally figuring out where the loophole was in that top boss argument. So in our presentation we pointed out the flaw in our original organisation structure which resulted in our lack of clear direction. And then he finally admitted that he had not been fair to us. It was a breath of fresh air. Finally vindicated. This top boss could have spoken to us separately in private but having now insisted that we present before the top management, he found himself on the apologetic end. I suppose all goes around comes around.

So there’s rogue’s art of war for you.

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