Miyamoto Musashi and Carpentry

According to Miyamoto Musashi, a skilled 19th-century swordsman and strategist, the study and mastery of carpentry is much like the study and mastery of strategy. In this case, the carpenter is the equivalent of a modern day home contractor, however, for the sake of keeping it simple, we’ll stick with Musashi’s terms.

The carpenter, for example, as a foreman knows the entire blueprint of the home he is in charge of building. Every detail must be learned in order to make sure the house comes together as it is supposed to. He must know the individual parts of the home that, when brought together, will make it a complete building. He also must know those working under him, what their jobs should be and who would be most effective at which assignment.

Likewise, the strategist knows the goal of the campaign he is in charge of winning. As such, he must know the basic battle plans. He must know the individual tactics and strategies that will make those plans successful. Lastly, he too much know the people who will be in charge of ensuring those tactics and strategies are put into play and used most effectively. The strategist is in charge of making sure the right personnel is in charge of the right assignments to make the strategies successful.

The carpenter and the strategist know, however, that conditions may change. Rigidity is important, as a carpenter cannot constantly make arbitrary changes to a design on a whim, and a strategist cannot change the plans in the same manner. However, along with rigidity comes the understanding that improvisation can and will happen. It is vital in tighter situations where conditions can and most likely will change. A carpenter does not begin a job with only the materials to complete the project. Wood may rot or break. Materials can go missing. The labor may be limited or workers can leave prematurely. The strategist also must have plans and tactics waiting in case conditions change and they are needed to replace outdated or broken strategies.

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