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Tao of Management Verse 27

Verse 27
Good walking leaves no track behind it;
Good speech leaves no mark to be picked at;
Good calculation makes no use of counting-slips;
Good shutting makes no use of bolt and bar,
And yet nobody can undo it;
Good tying makes no use of rope and knot,
And yet nobody can untie it.

Hence, the Sage is always good at saving men,
and therefore nobody is abandoned;
Always good at saving things,
And therefore nothing is wasted.

This is called “following the guidance of the Inner Light.”

Hence, good men are teacher of bad men,
While bead men are the charge of good men.
Not to revere one’s teacher,
Not to cherish one’s charge,
Is to be on the wrong road, however intelligent one may be.
This is an essential tenet of the Tao.

My take on this:
At work, and especially as managers, we are our brother’s keeper.
Cherish the opportunities you have to teach, guide and learn.
The trick is, of course, to lead without being heavy handed.
The trick is not to give up and leave somebody behind.
The trick is to get the best possible result with the least possible effort.
The goal is to make the way so clear they don’t realize it was blocked.
To do the most important thing without seeming to do anything.
This is an essential challenge of a Tao of Management.


Tao of Management Verse 26

Verse 26

Heaviness is the root of lightness
Serenity is the master of restlessness

Therefore, the Sage, travelling all day,
Does not part with the baggage-wagon;
Though there may be gorgeous sights to see,
He stays at ease in his own home.

Why should a lord of ten thousand chariots
Display his lightness to the world?
To be light is to be separated from one’s root;
To be restless is to lose one’s self-mastery.

My take on this:
You know how Jim Collins in “Good to Great” talks about the Hedgehog Concept”:

The essence of a Hedgehog Concept is to attain piercing clarity about how to produce the best long-term results, and then exercising the relentless discipline to say, “No thank you” to opportunities that fail the hedgehog test. When we examined the Hedgehog Concepts of the good-to-great companies, we found they reflected deep understanding of three intersecting circles: 1) what you are deeply passionate about, 2) what you can be the best in the world at, and 3) what best drives your economic engine.

That’s what this verse is about. Know your stuff. Chill. Focus.
Don’t be a show off, don’t take every opportunity. Say “no”.
Realize that busy work is a waste of time,
and that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.


Tao of Management Verse 25

Verse 25:
There was Something undefined and yet complete in itself,
Born before Heaven and Earth.

Silent and boundless,
Standing along without change,
Yet pervading all without fail,
It may be regarded as the Mother of the world.
I do not know its name;
I style it “Tao”;
And in the absence of a better word, call it “The Great.”

To be great is to go on,
To go on is to be far,
To be far is to return.

Hence, “Tao is great,
Heaven is great,
Earth is great,
King is great.”Thus the king is one of the great four in the Universe.

Man follows the way of the Earth.
The Earth follows the way of Heaven,
Heaven follows the ways of Tao,
Tao follows its own ways.

My interpretation
I’m going to do a commentary instead of a colloquial re-write. This verse is pretty straight-forward. The writer, Lao Tzu, first gives us one of the “big ideas’ behind Taoism. Tao is the everything and nothing that precedes and will succeed everything in the universe. At one point he gives us a little mantra: “Tao is great, heaven is great, earth is great, king is great.” I smile a little bit and think even Lao Tzu knew when to kiss a little butt by adding the king in there – a smart move in fourth century BC China, just as much as it is today.  What I love about this verse are the two little kernels of wisdom packed in between.

The first is:  “To be great is to go on, to go on is to be far, to be far is to return.” I liken this to mean one should go out, be discriminating but considerate, be universal in your care and consideration of what you find; take it all in and complete the cycle by processing it and bringing it back for others. I think this represents and eternal cycle of birth, learning, sharing and rebirth.  How do we relate this to management?  Well, don’t go chasing after every new flavor that comes along, nor every new trend or hot topic. But do be considerate of all, read, listen, ponder. Even the most foolish are educational in that they help you strengthen your own beliefs. It also means don’t be stuck in one place intellectually, take in what works, discard what doesn’t, bring back what you find to others. If you really want to get down to the ticky-tacky, invest in yourself and your people – send them out into the world to learn and bring back what they learn to you and your organization. Learn by adapting.

The second is: “Man follows the way of the Earth. The Earth follows the way of Heaven, Heaven follows the ways of Tao,
Tao follows its own ways.” This one is even easier to translate into common knowledge in my opinion:  Seek the eternal truths. What’s the higher purpose for what you are doing and how you are doing it?  What’s the underlying philosophy behind the management practices you use or are considering? Do they reflect your true beliefs and values? This is especially true when looking at new management philosophies.  What is the kernel of belief at the center of them? What do they say about ultimate truth and meaning behind life? What do they reveal about their opinions about humans, why they are motivated and how they are motivated to succeed?

Behind every management method is a philosophy of life, look for it to see how close it is to the eternal truth.