Sometimes I refer to Sun Tzu during seminars; and I always start by saying “Some of you have probably heard of Sun Tzu.” It’s not unusual for people to have read something about this Chinese mercenary general who lived 5 centuries before Christ.
But most people have never thought about this: If Sun Tzu was here today, and he was the traffic manager for, let’s say, a construction company, how would he approach the role?

Here’s what we know about Sun Tzu: One of the most-frequently-quoted truths found in Sun Tzu’s book, The Art of War, is this one:

“Know the enemy and know yourself”
As an engineering officer in the Army, I was told Sun Tzu said “Know yourself; Know your enemy, and Prepare the battlefield”.

While this might be an imaginative interpretation, stemming from some charismatic Army staff officer in the 1980’s, we don’t know that Sun Tzu didn’t say this. And, we can easily apply these 3 rules to every challenge, every decision, every challenge we will ever face. I will demonstrate:

Know yourself.

If Sun Tzu were assigned the responsibility of managing a fleet of construction vehicles today, I believe the first thing he might do is to make a list of his assets, or ask someone to do it for him. Depending on the size of the organization, you may be a one-man shop or you might be able to delegate some mundane tasks. Either way, you must have a list of CMVs, by year, make, model, and GVWR.

Then, he would probably study the accident register and loss runs, as well as moving violations in the past 24 months. This last is easily done by signing on to SMS. Your recent history is the most-reliable predictor of your immediate future.

Another step Sun Tzu would probably take is to review all training records for the most-recent 24 months. Have we done some good training? Have we put it off? Have we been overly-reliant on some pre-recorded training materials of dubious quality?

Finally, I believe Sun Tzu would rely on his instincts, walking around and taking an informal measure of the organizations safety controls and the way people respond to them. Do people ignore rules that are clearly posted? Do people follow rules to the letter, grudgingly? Or do people cheerfully follow the spirit of company safety rules, because they know these rules are meant to save lives?

This might include visiting some construction jobs, listening to people talk, taking an informal measure of how well-developed the company’s safety management controls are and how seriously people are taking them.

Next time, the 2nd part of Sun Tzu’s first lesson; know your enemy.

-Mike England

DOT Compliance Help, Inc.


DOT Compliance Help, Inc.
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