Nine Common Campaign Situations
“Military leaders must be experts in knowing how to adapt to find an advantage.
This will teach you the use of war.” Sun Tzu’s The Art of War 8:1:14-15
Competitive situations are complex and constantly changing. As we pursue opportunities, especially in a series of moves that are part of a campaign, our progress itself naturally changes our situation. Every case is unique. Their details can vary. They arise on different forms of ground. They can arise despite our the positions of our rivals. Our commitment to the venture can vary. Still, none of these single elements dictate our overall competitive situation or our response to it. We must pick out the right elements of our situations to diagnose them correctly.
The secret is knowing how situations combine these characteristics into a useful set of guidelines. The only way that such guidelines can be useful is if they recommend a clear course of action. The nine common situations in this article are easily identified. More importantly, these situation each have one and only one correct response. When we recognize the situations, we know exactly what to do. Each of these situations is addressed in detail in its own separate article here a Practical Strategy. Those articles give the specifics for recognizing a situation and how to best address it. This article is meant simply as an overview.
Nine Common Situations
These nine common classes of situations can arise in any move and most will arise in the course of a campaign.
We are sometimes forced to find an opportunity because our existing positions are threatened.
This situation makes it impossible to pursue a new opportunity. Instead, we must focus on who and what threatens our existing position. We call this a dissipating situation (Dissipating Situations).
Campaigns get off to an easy start if we stay close to what we know.
Frequently just the novelty of getting into new but nearby territories gives us certain advantages. This is an easy situation (Easy Situations).
If a new opportunity is very appealing, others will discover it as well.
Sometimes, our initial success in the opportunity gives them the idea. This is a contentious situation (Contentious Situations).
We and others can make quick progress along different routes without conflict.
We can build our positions while rivals can also build their positions in different ways. This is an open situation (Open Situations).
Over time, we discover we need the resources and skills of other “rivals.”
None of us have all the skills and resources needed to establish a dominant position in the new territory. We must unite to create a complete solution. We are at the crossroads (Crossroads Situations).
After a large investment, we need access to more resources.
At this point, even our supporters can become critics of the new venture, threatening to cut off funding. This is a serious situation (Serious Situations).
As we explore opportunities more deeply, we discover barriers that slow progress.
We must overcome these barriers to make the venture successful. This is a difficult situation (Difficult Situations).
When moves get closer to making a claim, we reach key transition points.
During this time, our options are severely limited. The transition is delicate and can be derailed if opposition arises. These are bottlenecks (Bottleneck Situations).
At the culmination of the campaigns, we can succeed only if we commit all our resources.
We must do this quickly because our venture will fail if we delay. This is a desperate situation (Desperate Situations).
Though there are an infinite number of variations on these main themes, recognizing their patterns helps us quickly decide on the best general course of action. If we do not know these situations, we cannot recognize them.
The topic of our next article will be how patterns like this are used in Practical Strategy. We will also discuss the various “tricks” that are used in Practical Strategy to improve people’s perceptions of us. We will do this by using the analogy of optical illusions to demonstrate how our minds work.
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