Project Business and Chinese Stratagems, Pt. 4


Stratagems for Confusion


Project Business Management



By Oliver F. Lehmann

Munich, Germany

“Famine wreaks greater havoc in an army than the enemy and is more terrible than the sword.”

Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, De Re Militari[1]


This article discusses stratagems 19 to 24 of the ancient 36 Chinese Stratagems (also known as sānshíliù jì, 三十六計). The focus of these stratagems is on creating chaos in order to gain an advantage in a battle or war. Applied in Project Business, the advantage may be monetary or have a different nature.

However, they are also a warning: Someone may use stratagems against you to weaken your position and gain an advantage.

The Fourth Set of Stratagems

The first set of six stratagems, carried over from ancient China focussed on a situation of strength. The second article of the series, written for professionals in Project Management and even more in Project Business Management[2], looked at six stratagems using deception. The third set included offensive stratagems for attacks.

In this fourth collection, the focus is on discord, chaos, and distrust

And for these as for all stratagems described in this series, the article is also a warning: Do not get deceived by others applying them.

The Series of Articles

The stratagems are ordered into six groups, which are each discussed in a dedicated article:

  1. Introduction, Stratagems for a position of strength[3] (previous article)
  2. Deceptive stratagems[4] (second article)
  3. Stratagems for attacks[5] (third article)
  4. Stratagems for confusion (this article)
  5. Stratagems to win ground
  6. Stratagems in the moment of defeat

The Stratagems for Confusion

By sowing confusion in a battle or war, a party can weaken its opponents and pave the way for an easier victory. This approach allows it to conserve its resources and improve its chances of success.

In the world of Project Business, confusion on the side of another party can open up opportunities that might not be visible or viable otherwise:

  1. Remove the firewood under the cooking pot

Defeating a powerful enemy requires a detailed and strategic approach. Implementing the stratagem, one starts by gathering as much information as possible about the enemy, including their strengths and weaknesses. This helps identify the source of their strength to then take steps to undermine it and demoralize the opponent.


To read entire article, click here

Editor’s note: This series of articles is by Oliver Lehmann, author of the book “Project Business Management” (ISBN 9781138197503), published by Auerbach / Taylor & Francis in 2018. See author profile below.

How to cite this article: Lehmann, O. F. (2023). Project Business and Chinese Stratagems, Pt. 4: Stratagems for Confusion, Project Business Management, series article, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue X, October. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/pmwj134-Oct2023-Lehmann-PBM-36-Chinese-Stratagems-pt-4.pdf

About the Author

Oliver F. Lehmann

Munich, Germany


Oliver F. Lehmann, MSc, ACE, PMP, is a project management educator, author, consultant, and speaker. In addition, he is the owner of the website Project Business Foundation, a non-profit initiative for professionals and organizations involved in cross-corporate project business.

He studied Linguistics, Literature, and History at the University of Stuttgart and Project Management at the University of Liverpool, UK, where he holds a Master of Science Degree (with Merit). Oliver has trained thousands of project managers in Europe, the USA, and Asia in methodological project management, focusing on certification preparation. In addition, he is a visiting lecturer at the Technical University of Munich.

He has been a member and volunteer at PMI, the Project Management Institute, since 1998 and served as the President of the PMI Southern Germany Chapter from 2013 to 2018. Between 2004 and 2006, he contributed to PMI’s PM Network magazine, for which he provided a monthly editorial on page 1 called “Launch,” analyzing troubled projects around the world.

Oliver believes in three driving forces for personal improvement in project management: formal learning, experience, and observations. He resides in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, and can be contacted at oliver@oliverlehmann.com.

Oliver Lehmann is the author of the books:

His previous articles and papers for PM World Journal can be found here:

[1] (Vegetius, 1982)
[2] (Lehmann, 2018)
[3] (Lehmann, 2023a)
[4] (Lehmann, 2023b)
[5] (Lehmann, 2023c)