13. By commanding the army to advance or to retreat, being ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey. This is called hobbling the army.

不知軍之不可以進而謂之進不知軍之不可以退而謂之退是謂縻軍

Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu is discussing the importance of a leader being knowledgeable and competent in military strategy. He argues that a leader who does not understand the capabilities and limitations of their army will be unable to effectively lead them in battle. If a leader tries to command their army to do something that is impossible or impractical, it will hinder the army’s ability to fight effectively. This is what Sun Tzu refers to as “hobbling the army.” He is saying that a lack of knowledge and understanding on the part of the leader can hinder the army’s ability to perform its duties.

Giving directives to employees without understanding their capabilities can hinder their ability to perform. This is known as impeding the organization's progress.

In a business context, the equivalent of a military leader is a manager or executive. Just as a military leader must understand the capabilities and limitations of their army in order to lead them effectively, a manager must understand the capabilities and limitations of their employees in order to give them effective direction. If a manager does not have a clear understanding of what their employees are capable of, they may give directives that are impossible or impractical to carry out. This can hinder the employees’ ability to perform their duties effectively, and ultimately hinder the organization’s progress.