According to Musashi in The Book of Five Rings, timing is the core principle in strategy. You must adapt your strategy to coordinate timing with your skill, and you must know when to attack and when not to attack. All things ebb and flow and so there is cyclical timing, as in waiting for the proper time to execute, when the energy of the defenses are low or distracted. There is also the benefit of understanding when the energy of the defense is at it’s peak and to use varying methods to either stall, divert, or spread out the defense until the timing can be right. Sun Tzu said: “The victorious army first realizes the conditions for victory, and then seeks to engage in battle. The vanquished army fights first, and then seeks victory.”
I know company and chief officers who have no sense of timing. They’ll go off half-cocked at everything and anything, thinking that by brute strength and a full-on frontal assault, they’ll impose their will on whatever comes along. Imagine their surprise when not only do they get it wrong, but they look bad in the process. It doesn’t matter how right you are (or think you are), if the time and opportunity don’t meet, you will find yourself on the losing end again.
As frustrating as it can be sometimes, the officer must determine which way the wind is blowing and then introduce the change (or proposal for change) when the opportunity presents itself. And I’ll tell people again and again, as I’m telling you now, watch officers who don’t understand this and I’ll bet they’re not perceived as very successful at their jobs.
Just as water flows to conform with boundaries and seeks the most efficient path, so should the officer possess the ability to change with one’s own situation to shift between options when presented with new information. Be aware of where loyalties lie, with the old and with the new, seek the chance to win over those on either side, and be the master of change.
Also on Firehouse Zen …
- Leadership That Matters, Part 15: The Bag of Tricks – May 16, 2012
- Circle of Personal Transformation – March 18, 2013
- Siege Mentality – October 22, 2012
- Desire – May 6, 2012