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Managing Technology-Based Projects: Tools, Techniques, People and Business Processes by Hans J. Thamhain

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Chapter 17

Managing Conflict in Project Organizations

SUN TZU—THE ANCIENT ART OF LEADERSHIP: MAKING CONFLICT UNNECESSARY

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There is an interesting story, documented well over two thousand years ago by the mysterious Chinese warrior-philosopher Sun Tzu in his writings on The Art of War, that is worth remembering. According to the legend, an emperor in ancient China asked his physician to compare the skills of his medicine-trained brothers to determine who was most skilled in the art of healing. The physician, whose reputation was seminal and synonymous with medical science in China, replied, “My younger brother sees the spirit of sickness and removes it before it takes shape, so his name does not get out of the house. My older brother cures sicknesses when they are still extremely minute, so his name does not get out of the neighborhood. As for me, I puncture veins, prescribe potions, and massage skin, so my name gets out and is heard among the lords.” After pondering the facts, the master physician concluded that his youngest brother, who can deal with the onset of illnesses before they impact, is the most skillful healer.

As in the story of the most effective healer, the most effective manager has the knowledge and skills to deploy strategies that make conflict altogether unnecessary. As announced by Sun Tzu: To overcome others' armies without fighting is the best of skills. As a ...

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