Chapter 1 – Laying Plans

This is my first installment of “The Art of SOA Governance”. These series of articles is based on“The Art of War” by Sun Tzu.

“The Art of War” is divided into 13 chapters or typically called P'ien, and the collection is referred to as being one Ch'üan ("whole" or alternatively "chronicle"). As different translations have used differing titles for each chapter, I will use Lionel Giles' 1910 translation as it is considered the standard reference.

I will not use all of the verses in each chapter, rather I will use what I believe to be the most relevant to SOA governance (SOAG). I will group these relevant verses together and then explain the relevance to SOAG. My comments will be marked in bold italics and marked so that to allow feedback from the reader.

As always, I welcome your feedback and comments on my views as my goal here is to drive a collective discussion on the parallels of this important text and related it to best practices of SOAG. 

So with that, lets start our discussion on Chapter 1 – “Laying Plans”


Tzu said: “The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin.

(1a) Most customers who embarked on the SOA journey, soon realize that governance is your safety net (or life-line) against the risk of failure, these words ring true. The point is that you can either chose governance and succeed or choose to fail without 

Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected. The art of war, then, is governed by five constant factors, to be taken into account in one's deliberations, when seeking to determine the conditions obtaining in the field. These are:

(1) The Moral Law;
(2) Heaven;
(3) Earth;
(4) The Commander;
(5) Method and discipline.

The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger. Heaven signifies night and day, cold and heat, times and seasons. Earth comprises distances, great and small; danger and security; open ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and death. The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness.

(1b) If we relate these 5 factors to SOAG, then I would suggest the following:

  1. Polices and Principles
  2. Budget
  3. Strategic Plan and Roadmap
  4. Technical ability, domain knowledge and discipline of the team, management and technical leaders
  5. Processes, best practices and tooling

By method and discipline are to be understood the marshaling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure.

(1c) Proper structure and alignment of the team to the SOAG policies, framework and processes is an essential  component of success in the early phases of SOAG. Used in conjunction with the tool of budget enforcement acts as the ultimate governance tool used by business and management leaders within the SOA program to drive the success the SOAG in the early phases.

These five heads should be familiar to every general: he who knows them will be victorious; he who knows them not will fail. Therefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison, in this wise:

(1) Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral law?

(1d) To have governance fabric permeated throughout the entire organization

(2) Which of the two generals has most ability?

(1e) The team must be lead by the most seasoned and well skilled leaders

(3) With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth?

(1f) Organizations with proper funding, strategic plans and proper roadmap

(4) On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?

(1g) The right level of governance applied in a very focused, meaningful and valued manner. I am reminded by a saying by Eric Marks, “The governance that governs the least, governs the best” 

(5) Which army is stronger?
(6) On which side are officers and men more highly trained?
(7) In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?

(1h) The team that is better prepared, better synergy, highly trained, rewarded and fined will yield the greatest results

By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victory or defeat.”

(1i) Enough said


Stay tuned for my next installment where we roll up our shelves and start the heaving lifting in “Chapter 2 – Waging War”.


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This blog is dedicated to driving excellence of execution of SOA Governance. Given that this is an areas of emerging interest, it is my goal to share my thoughts and experiences to benefit all who take up the endeavor to adopt governance.


« July 2016