Sun Tzu and the Art of Managing Conflict

It may seem curious for me to equate managing a war to managing a production and certainly I will never equate the seriousness of one to the other.   There are some basic principles we can take away from the military philosophy that will serve us well as we approach our own field of conflict.

I am always somewhat amazed when people don’t want to acknowledge the conflict frequently present and often inevitable  in the theater. So many agendas, so little time, so few resources, such great expectations create an environment of need, which creates an environment of tension the inevitable path to possible, probable and likely conflict. We will never eliminate conflict from our profession but it is only recently I have considered we should not want to.

Conflict is not necessarily a bad thing in an arts environment. It denotes passion, concern, care, and a desire to complete the idea. It can be a strong, positive force in the artistic process. The key is to manage it properly.

There are many methods available for managing conflict. Sun Tzu breaks down these strategies, one of which is avoidance. What does avoidance really mean? I believe in the terms of Sun Tzu it means to negate, or mitigate a conflict witch is not probably what most of us think of. Given our positions as managers Rather than not walking into the den of a lion, it is when we walk in we are prepared for what we will find, better so than the lion. We will employ tools to achieve this level of preparedness, in the case of the lion we will have a firearm, and the understanding he knows we are coming and we will have an opening to engage and succeed, that is all we need. In our case we as a manager we know the issue on the table know how it fits with our goals and therefore we really do know how to handle the situation to achieve our intentions.

We simply don’t have the luxury to be afraid to face or deal with conflict. What we need to do is to maintain a sense of current conditions I call “situational awareness” you can find reference to this concept in many places and it is concept we don’t pay enough attention to. It is considered mostly in the context of the military, or law enforcement where it is critical to know as much about the situation you are in as is possible; but that is another article on this site…

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