Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Friday, March 19, 2010

The 36 Strategies: #33, Scheme with Double Agents

Next to the Art of War by Sun Tzu, The 36 Strategies is the most widely read book of Asian strategy. Where the Art of War attempts to present an overview and method to the topic of strategy, the 36 Strategies attempts to impart the knack of strategic thinking through 36 maxims, divided into six groups of six maxims each.

This time we look at #33, Scheme with Double Agents.

The Art of War devotes a chapter to spies and places a great deal of importance upon them. Perhaps the most valuable is the double agent.

The double agent is not only providing you with informaton from the other side, but is useful in disseminating misinformation among the opposition, and perhaps even performing acts of sabotage.

All well and good, but how does this apply to my regular everyday life? A salesman knows that there is no better ally to have than someone inside a customer organization who works on your behalf. Maybe this is a customer whom you've won over or has an obligation to you, or maybe a member of your own organization who is a resident engineer.

Having someone on the inside keeps you up to date on what's going on; what new opportunities are coming, what problems are looming on the horizon, insights about the competition, and guidance in navigating through the organization. An inside person can help to smooth over problems before they reach a boil, or can throw a monkey wrench into a competitor's issues.

I have also found that in working with global companies where the sales force is "here" and the design and manufacture is "over there" it is extremely important to have someone "over there" who is looking out after your interests every day because you simply can't be there to look after them yourself. The insights obtained by your insider about the political climate "over there", and the real issues (as opposed to what they're telling you) are invaluable.

On the other side of the coin, in this economy where you never know when you might get laid off, I have seen some of those "inside advocates" parley their relationships with the vendors whose interests they have been advancing into other jobs.


Anonymous said...

I am learning from your postings. Good luck with the new job. Enjoy life taste the tea.

Rick Matz said...


"Philosophy practiced is the goal of learning. - Thoreau