Center for Strategic Communication

[approached by Lynn C. Rees]

Scott’s comment gets me thinking:

Truly two main paths present: passive (deter and encourage) and active (conquer, convert, capture, or contain) [via Jeremy and Hans Delbruck]…

The strategist needs cognitive elasticity (Boyd would call “adaptability” and Eccles/Rosinski would call “strategic flexibility”), as the world/circumstances are ever-changing.

By reflex, modernity sees mind as a tug of war. To software extremists, mind is fluid, its course shifted constantly by the unfolding environment. To hardware extremists, mind is solid, its granite face reinforced by inheritance at a glacial pace. Risking fallacy, it seems reality is found somewhere in the mud puddle between tugs: firmware. Confounding software extremists, mind is not fluid. It’s not even rubbery: much of mind is solidified by inheritance. Confounding hardware extremists, mind is not solid. It’s not even doomed by age to irrevocable rigidity: mind can be bent, given time and constancy. Mind is plastic: it knows when to hold ‘em and knows when to fold’em.

A connected view argues that mind’s right conjures ad hoc responses to new things while its left turns the ad hoc into routine responses. Predictably, this means that, as mind ages, its center of gravity leans left. To the infant, everything is new, to the elder, many things are eerily familiar. Focus follows time.

Swun Dz thought describes strategy as shr shifted between jeng and chi. Ralph Sawyer translates shr as “strategic configuration of power”, jeng as “orthodox”, and chi as “unorthodox”. The shr path of PMI thought agrees:

What is a project?

In A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Third Edition, the Project Management Institute defines a project as a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service. As simple as this definition may seem, there are a few key points that define a project as distinct from ongoing operations. Again, from the PMBOK® Guide:

Operations and projects differ primarily in that operations are ongoing and repetitive while projects are temporary and unique. A project can thus be defined in terms of its distinctive characteristics. Temporary means that every project has a definite beginning and a definite end. Unique means that the product or service is different in some distinguishing way from all similar products or services.

Poor Swun Dz. Born too early for his PMP®.

Fear not. The news is good. While the far future can look forward with gladness to finding bamboo fragments of the fabled PMBOK® Guide – Fourth Edition clutched tightly in skeletal fists when the tombs of the heroic project managers of old are opened, we get a few blessed scraps of future ancient PMI wisdom for today:

  • jeng == hardware ==  routine == left brain
  • chi == software == project == right brain

America swoons for Swun Dz  and the Swun Dz America swoons for is chi to the bone. For today’s America, jeng is a great sin while chi is a great virtue. The root fear of the age is being overtaken by the dread trope of the age: “Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.” In a jungle subject to the law of the instrument, the last thing you want to be accused of is jeng gray in nail and hammer. The sneer of “same old, same old” will not kill you, but it may serve as your hipness epitaph.

Now, as with all tropes too far, chi has fought the good fight for so long that it’s become what it professes to abominate: a hammer gone abroad in search of routines to pound. America is mired in routine appeals to chi. Yet Master Swun taught differently:

What enable[s] an army to withstand the enemy’s attack and not be defeated are uncommon [chi] and common [jeng] maneuvers.

The army will be like throwing a stone against an egg;

it is a matter of weakness and strength.

Generally, in battle, use the common [jeng] to engage the enemy and the uncommon [chi] to gain victory.

Those skilled at uncommon [chi] maneuvers are as endless as the heavens and earth, and as inexhaustible as the rivers and seas.

Like the sun and the moon, they set and rise again.

Like the four seasons, they pass and return again.

There are no more than five musical notes, yet the variations in the five notes cannot all be heard.

There are no more than five basic colors, yet the variations in the five colors cannot all be seen.

There are no more than five basic flavors, yet the variations in the five flavors cannot all be tasted.

In battle, there are no more than two types of attacks:

Uncommon [chi] and common [jeng], yet the variations of the uncommon [chi] and common [jeng] cannot all be comprehended.

The uncommon [chi] and the common [jeng] produce each other, like an endless circle.

Who can comprehend them?

I’d amend a few items in Scott’s excellent formulation. By my reckoning, strength is one unbroken spectrum. The more active and more passive, which it is not unreasonable to identify with chi and jeng, are not two distinct paths. They are two spectrum bookends. All flavors of strength, spoken, physical, wealth, and so forth, fall some place between them. Chi and jeng are swallowed up in the spectrum of strength, reduced to reference points scattered across its face.

Intensity of strength varies, and is measured, by shr, its strategic configuration of strength. And what aspects of strength are configurable?

  • reach: certainty of means
  • drive: certainty of motive
  • grip: certainty of opportunity

From where chi sits, this configurability looks like:

  • reach: flexibility of means
  • drive: flexibility of motive
  • grip: flexibility of opportunity

From where jeng sits, configurability looks more like:

  • reach: solidity of means
  • drive: solidity of motive
  • grip: solidity of opportunity

A more balanced approach looks like:

  • reach: plasticity of means
  • drive: plasticity of motive
  • grip: plasticity of opportunity

These three will vary in their plasticity. Reach will be fluid and then rigid. Drive will be rigid now and later more fluid. Grip will be more solid before and more flexible after.

Politics is the division (and dividing) of strength. Strategy is its continuation and instrument. Strategy is the configuration (and configuring) of strength, the balance (and balancing), the plasticity (and plasticizing) of strength’s reach, drive, and grip. It will solidify and liquidate its strategic configuration of strength as the wider political configuration of the division of power is anticipated and reacted to by those balanced within.

Three variations, drive, reach, and grip, yet the variations of the three cannot all be comprehended.

They produce each other, like an endless plastic circle.

Who can comprehend them?