Sun Tzu refers to “method and discipline” as the fifth constant, which refers to two separate things.
First, there is the process by which the organization is managed; this includes logistics, the science of getting resources from where they are gathered to where they are needed most, in addition to the process of communicating instructions and receiving feedback to manage the organization effectively.
Second, there is discipline, which is how the people are managed. For this, I will proceed directly to the passage that follows.
“In which army is there greater constancy, both in reward and punishment?”
Our modern world holds a common saying that reads: “No good deed shall go unpunished.” When an organization not only lets good behavior go unrewarded, but in effect, rewards bad behavior by its employees and managers, the effect is cancerous, crippling operations by removing the incentive for the rank and file to report problems up the chain of command, act on their own initiative to mitigate or eliminate problems before they become critical, and creating long-term resentment against the commander or executive’s leadership. This is a poor way to handle an organization.
As with taxes, punishing good behavior will result in less of it; rewarding good behavior will result in more of it. However, both rewards and punishments must be seen as consistent, or they will not be considered fair. A leader who is strict, but fair, will be respected where one who is indulgent or biased will not be. Even if a leader is loved, because he is liberal with rewards, a lack of consistency in enforcing his rules and punishing violations thereof will lead to contempt, and the organization can then be compared to a group of spoiled children, unfit for any practical purpose.
However, should a leader treat his subordinates with respect, rewarding the behavior he wishes to encourage with benevolence, sincerity, wisdom, and above all, consistency, he will not only be respected, but trusted and admired. This is a certain path to victory.