Project Business and Chinese Stratagems, Pt. 6


Stratagems in the Moment of Defeat


Project Business Management


By Oliver F. Lehmann, MSc, ACE, PMP

Munich, Germany

“When I was young, I observed that nine out of ten things I did were failures. So I did ten times more work.”
George Bernard Shaw


This article discusses the last six of the ancient 36 Chinese Stratagems (also known as sānshíliù jì, 三十六計). The focus of these stratagems is on surviving in a moment of weakness and defeat to gain a chance for another attempt. Applied in Project Business, the stratagems may inspire solutions for crises.

And again, the stratagems come also as a warning: Someone may use them against you to undermine your organization and your project.

The Sixth Set of Stratagems

The first set of six stratagems, carried over from ancient China focused on a situation of strength. The second article of the series, written for professionals in Project Management and even more in Project Business Management[1], looked at six stratagems using deception. The third set included offensive stratagems for attacks. The fourth set of stratagems brought confusion into an adversary’s camp.

In this fifth collection, the focus is on situations when the adversary is stronger and stratagems are used to impair him.

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 have each been discussed in a dedicated article:

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

The Stratagems in the Moment of Defeat

The final set of stratagems is the most daring among the 36 stratagems, requiring finesse and skill. These are reserved for crisis situations that justify high-stakes gambles and need experienced commanders to be executed successfully.

In the world of Project Business, crisis always lurks around the next corner. Therefore, it is crucial to execute projects with alertness, professionalism, and creativity, to ensure the projects’ organizational and financial well-being despite the different interests of the parties involved under contract.

  1. Lay Out a Beauty Trap

Mata Hari is often remembered as a “beautiful spy,” a characterization that stems from her fame as an exotic dancer and courtesan combined with her later involvement in espionage during World War I.


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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. (2023). Project Business Management and the 36 Chinese Stratagems, Pt. 6, PM World Journal, Vol. XII, Issue XII (December). Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/pmwj136-Dec2023-Lehmann-PBM36-Stratagems-6.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: https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/oliver-f-lehmann/

[1] (Lehmann, 2018)
[2] (Lehmann, 2023a)
[3] (Lehmann, 2023b)
[4] (Lehmann, 2023c)
[5] (Lehmann, 2023d)
[6] (Lehmann, 2023e)