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Consultant Deceive The Heavens To Cross The Ocean. And Wins.

Consultant is a lonely warrior in the filed. He is expected to put results on the table. He is expected to solve problems. Fast. He is expected to always win. To do so, he needs a winning tactics to achieve his goals. In thirty six stratagems there are 6 groups one of which is The Stratagems of Winning: Consultant's stratagems of winning 
by snappybex
  • Deceive the heavens to cross the ocean
  • Besiege Wèi to rescue Zhào
  • Kill with a borrowed knife
  • Substitute leisure for labour
  • Loot a burning house
  • Make a sound in the east, then strike in the west

All these can be successfully applied in consultancy too.

Deceive the heavens to cross the ocean

This stratagem means that you mask your real goals, thus deceiving even the emperor / heavens itself with a fake goal, until they are confronted with finished facts. – Wikipedia

I found this technique useful only for the case of broken trust. I found that revealing completely my real goals with customers and managers works best. Usually it is something that can be described as win win situation. I understand perfectly that when I am trying to achieve a goal that might potentially pose a risk to either customer or a manager I won’t achieve it easily. What’s even worse is that I won’t have fun and I won’t enjoy achieving it if I will be forced  to use this stratagem.

On other hand, consulting is much about politics. It is extremely rare that all parties have the same goals or at least goals that overlap. Consultant is always involved in some sort of conflict:

  • The budget is low but the expectations are high.
  • Two customers has urgent issues simultaneously.
  • Management makes business decision that is less favorable to the customer the consultant facing.
  • The service is paid by one guy (procurement) but it is delivered to other one (actual end user), and there is a disconnect between the two.
  • The competition shows better results but the consultant just cannot admit it as it would terminate the gig (which is about another stratagem, defeat stratagem).

How do you win in such situations?

You Deceive the Heavens To Cross The Ocean. You mask your real goals, achieve it and present finished fact. Then, you lead a horse to water.

What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease – Sun Tzu.

The easiest way to win hearts of customers and managers is revealing your real goals up-front. This is possible when your customers or managers are purposeful. If this is not the case – Deceive The Heavens To Cross The Ocean.

Practice This – Get Results

  • Is your customer purposeful? – reveal your real goals up-front. 
  • Is your manager purposeful? – reveal your real goals up-front. 
  • In all other cases – mask your goals.
  • Practice Emotional intelligence.
  • Deliver value silently, then make them confront with finished fact. No one can argue with facts.

My Related Posts

6 February 2009


  • Giovanna Garcia said:

    Well, I would say to do the right thing and be honest is the way to go. Gig and project come and go, at the end you have to be able to live with yourselves.

    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action

  • alik levin (author) said:

    Must admit, I had super mixed feelings writing this one. Deceive is not the best word and practice I’d recommend to make trustful partnerships with customers and for building healthy relationships with managers.
    On other hand this is how they put it… The meaning is what it matters.
    I am sure as an entrepreneur you face a situations where you need to maneuver, right? To successfully maneuver one needs to apply proven and working practices, I suggest using Winning Stratagems.

  • J.D. Meier said:

    In sports it’s the classic fake left and go right, or in foosball it’s the bait-and-switch. It’s about using surprise to your advantage.

  • alik levin (author) said:

    What you describe here is more like “Make a sound in the east, then strike in the west” ;)
    which is another winning stratagem

  • Trey - Swollen Thumb Entertainment said:

    Sometimes, if you happen to be overly ambitious, people will turn on you if they think that you might become more successful or influential than they are. Some people are highly insecure or jealous, and these are the types of people that you should “deceive”.

    I agree with the idea of identifying who you want to be honest with, and reveal your goals to them, and no one else, until you are given reason to share this information with them.

  • alik levin (author) said:

    Ambitious is not enough although people appreciate self confidence a lot (i have plenty of stories about it). Being resourceful is even more important. Nevertheless being resourceful is not always appreciated so I am forced to maneuver. I agree that “deceive” should be placed in quotes as you did ;)

  • Melissa Donovan said:

    It all comes down to transparency, something I try to practice actively in my own business. I tend to be honest to a fault so deceiving the heavens isn’t part of my game plan. At all.

  • alik levin (author) said:

    Transparency is the best plan i practice too.

    “I found that revealing completely my real goals with customers and managers works best”

    “The easiest way to win hearts of customers and managers is revealing your real goals up-front”

    This works when the customer/manager are purposeful, which happens a lot but not always.

    “Deceive” is far from being a good practice. The point of the post is that when a customer or a manager is not purposeful it’s way too hard to achieve results, one needs to maneuver, not cheat on customers or managers – maneuver ;).
    If I can not get results during a consulting gig last thing i would say is “it’s not my fault, but yours”. Who cares who’s fault it is? What I’d do i’d get results and then just “lead a horse to the water”;). Just like int the original tale:
    “… the General had deceivedly lured the emperor onto a ship! Upon discovering this, the emperor decided to carry on and later finished the successful campaign.”

    think of a consultant as a General and customer/manager as an Emperor ;)

  • Jimmy May, Aspiring Geek said:

    “Deceive” certainly is a loaded word. Yet, Alik, you began by saying, “I found this technique useful only for the case of broken trust”.

    As professionals, haven’t we all been in a position of “fake it ’til you make it”? This could be deemed a “deception”, yet it’s been an arrow which I’m glad is my quiver!

    I appreciate your introducing us to new perspectives, Alik. I treat Practice This like a buffet–I take what I like & leave the rest. I never leave hungry.

  • alik levin (author) said:

    Thank you for constructive feedback!

    Glad to hear the topic resonates w/you!
    It’s been tough write for me….

    Consulting would be much happier place if customers/managers were always purposeful … until then consultant should use maneuvers to win (not cheat, but maneuver)

    bon appetite ;)

  • Consultant "Kills" With A Borrowed Knife — Practice This said:

    [...] Consultant Deceive The Heavens To Cross The Ocean. And Wins. [...]

  • Powerful Consulting - #1 — Practice This said:

    [...] Consultant Deceive The Heavens To Cross The Ocean. And Wins. [...]

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