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How insights of Sun Tzu can help your digital transformation

Norbert Hendriksen, 25 mei 2022


I expect you are well aware that the age of digital transformation is rolling forward quickly with new technologies.  And especially in the field of Customer Experience, you cannot afford to stay behind with fuelling your company with digital solutions that will boost you creating a sustainable customer experience. In my previous blog I explained how a vivid key user community is conditional for your organisation to adopt a digital transformation. An active key user community is one of the four major pillars of a successful digital transformation (along with Leadership, Culture & Communication and Knowledge & Skills).

Sun Tzu and leadership

sun tzu

Today I’d like to zoom in on the pillar Leadership. And I’d like to do so by making use of a book that I have read many years ago. This book is called “The Art of War” and was written by Sun Tzu in somewhere about 400 B.C. (although there are contradictory theories about Sun Tzu’s authorship). Sun Tzu was a general and military strategist of the Chinese kingdom of Wu (771 – 476 BC). The kingdom was threatened by the much stronger Chu kingdom and Sun Tzu is said to have developed various strategies to defeat the Chu. Later he described these strategies in his book.  As with many reflective outlines, several interpretations and viewpoints are possible considering the wisdom which is shared in this book. Hence, it is not a book to read quickly. Nevertheless, I was truly fascinated by it as many of the military strategies and tactics he described, are still so true and applicable to the modern, non-combative world.

In the book Sun Tzu starts with the 5 elements for strategic assessment in preparation of war. One of these elements is what he calls the way: “The Way means inducing the people to have the same aim as the leadership so that they will share death and share life, without fear of danger.” What Sun Tzu emphasizes with this metaphor is that a country and its society should be completely aligned from top to bottom to the goal and purpose of a war. This can only be achieved if the people are guided and governed by their leaders in a humane and just manner.

Leadership and digital transformation


This principle can be crossed over to the modern day corporate world and certainly in the setting of digital transformation. I see the similarity because even though it is not exactly a war, a transformation of an organisation does mean uncertainty, proper strategy and planning. So, let’s use this strategic assessment and apply this to your digital transformation. If you are about to embark on a digital transformation adventure, or maybe find yourself in a transformation which is not going as smooth as you’d like it to go, have a critical look on your organisation’s “way”. Is everyone from top to bottom on the same page when it comes to understanding the relevance of a digital transformation? Are the leaders of your transformation process truly leading and guiding the organisation in a way that everyone understands and accepts the purpose and the goal?

At Acorel, we assess this aspect when we are asked to improve our clients’ digital transformation. We will have a close look at how management has been involved and has been leading. For example, we assess the level of the available Customer Experience vision and to what extend this is carried out throughout the organisation. It is our experience that when a clear vision is lacking or not properly carried out, this results in a lagging progress of the digital transformation.

So if you are in the middle of a digital transformation or you’re about to start one, take our digital maturity scan and make sure your organisation’s “way” is on target!

And, as always, remember: we’re here to help!

Norbert Hendriksen

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