THEORY - Maneuver Concepts
02.03.00 Cheng and ch’i.

Griffith continues his introduction to The Art of War by describing Sun Tzu’s use of the expected and unexpected in order to generate maneuver advantage. He characterizes the use of the expected and unexpected as the generals tactical instruments. Griffith says:

“The normal direct or cheng force and the extraordinary, indirect or ch’i force - are reciprocal; there effects are mutually reproductive”.

Griffith defines cheng as fixed, static and immobile. Ch’i is described in terms of flanking, encircling or fluid and mobile. Another way of thinking of cheng and ch’i is in terms of the orthodox and unorthodox. Cheng and ch’i like their Chinese analogs yin and yang are inextricably linked - one giving rise to the other. The emphasis on one force over the other leads to disharmony. And although cheng and ch’i are only two forces the artful combination of them can lead to infinite possibilities.(4) Sun Tzu described the artful use of cheng and ch’i this way according to the Thomas Cleary translation of the Art of War:

“There are only five notes in the musical scale, but their variations are so many that they cannot all be heard. There are only five basic colors, but their variations are so many that they cannot all be seen. There are only five basic flavors, but their variations are so many that they cannot all be tasted. There are only two kinds of charge in battle, the unorthodox surprise attack and the orthodox direct attack, but the variations of the unorthodox and the orthodox are endless. The unorthodox and the orthodox give rise to each other, like a beginningless circle - who could exhaust them?”.

One could characterize contemporary sales and marketing organizations as a cheng force. One way of explaining the dysfunction of this formation is the complete lack of ch’i.

How does one develop ch’i? And then calibrate cheng and ch’i in a manner that generates maneuver advantage? To explain how, we must now come forward 2000 years to describe the exploits and genius of a maverick American fighter pilot and his application of Sun Tzu’s theories to both military and business conflicts.

4 Surprise and Anticipation: The Principles of War Applied to Business. Chester Richards. 2002