Divide or Conquer How Great Teams Turn Conflict Into Strength

Redefining teams as not a bunch of individuals but rather as the sum of their relationships, this book offers a step-by-step approach for understanding and transforming organizational and team relationships


From the cover flap:

Conflict is inevitable. But whether it makes or breaks your team depends only on the strength of the relationships within it.

Ever been on a team where people can’t get along to save their lives? Maybe the VPs of Sales and Manufacturing bicker at every meeting. Or your numbers-driven boss and a more intuitive colleague constantly talk past each other. Or a seasoned veteran and a rising young star jockey for position at every turn.

These relationships are corrosive not just to the people involved but to the entire group — and to their results.

In Divide or Conquer, Diana McLain Smith distills almost thirty years of experience studying and advising leaders to offer a new way to think about teams: not as a bunch of individuals, but as the sum of their relationships.

According to Smith, great teams don’t assume everyone will get along. They anticipate conflict, and use it to strenghten their relationships. In constrast, dysfunctional teams avoid or work around conflicts, which only ends up harming their relationships and their ability to get things done.

Every team is only as strong as its weakest relationship. When teams neglect key relationships, they do so at their peril, as one infamous cautionary tale illustrates — the corporate divorce between Steve Jobs and John Sculley at Apple Computer in the 1980s. In just two years, Jobs and Sculley moved from idolizing each other to demonizing each other. By the time they finally discussed their differences, their views were so entrenched that they had to call it quits, nearly taking Apple down with them.

No relationship should end this way — or needs to. Relationships are not a matter of personal chemistry too mysterious to decode or too difficult to change. Through one engaging story after another, Smith shows that it’s possible both to understand how relationships work and to change their course — before it’s too late.

Divide or Conquer offers a powerful, step-by-step approach to building a team that’s flexible and strong enough to master its toughest challenges. The ideas and tools you’ll find inside are both practical and profound, and have been tested and honed in the real world for years.

Whether you’re a senior executive who wants to inspire your team or a new employee who needs to start building relationships, Divide or Conquer will show you what it takes to succeed together.


“One of the most enlightening and useful books I’ve read about that indomitable, freighted four-syllable word that has the power to destroy dreams and lives — or enliven them: relationships. Smith has a unique style, smart and deft, coupled with a fresh sense of humor.” – Warren Bennis, distinguished professor of business, University of Southern California, and coauthor (with Noel Tichy), Judgment

“Work relationships are like the weather — everybody talks a lot about them, but most think they can’t do much about them. Such fatalism soon becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, resulting in mediocre and frustrating teams at all levels. A master advisor to teams, Diana Smith persuasively shows how those who truly care about performanceand relationships can simultaneously nurture both.” – Peter Senge, author, The Fifth Discipline

“A rare book — sensitive in human terms, but also practical and hard-edged.” – Lord Dennis Stevenson, banker, chairman, HBOS, plc

Divide or Conquer is intelligent, riveting, and useful. Smith reveals a new approach to understanding how management teams work, what can go wrong, and what to do to make it right.” – Amy Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management, Harvard Business School

“Smith has written a masterpiece … for all leaders — from business to politics.” – Jonas Gahr Store, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Norway

“An invaluable guide to a domain that’s becoming ever more important, not only in business but across sectors. I wish I had had this book when I cofounded City Year twenty years ago.” – Alan Khazei, CEO, Be the Change, and cofounder, City Year

PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center

Close window

Soft copy vs. hard copy

You may order this role simulation in either soft copy (electronic) or hard copy (paper) format. If you select the soft copy option, you will receive an e-mail with a URL (website address) from which you may download an electronic file in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. You will have one week to download your materials from when you receive the email. You are then only authorized to use, print, or share the materials as many times as the number of copies you purchase. The TNRC charges for use of this simulation on a per-participant basis. Therefore, you must purchase a separate copy of this simulation for each person who will be participating, regardless of the number of roles in the simulation. You will only receive a link to one electronic file, which includes all general instructions, confidential instructions, and any teaching notes for the simulation. You should separate out the instructions before distributing to participants.

If you select the hard copy option, you will receive paper copies of this role simulation via the shipping method you select.

For additional information about the soft copy option, please visit our FAQ section, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at tnrc@law.harvard.edu or 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.) or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.).

Please note: At the present time, Teaching Negotiation Resource Center soft copies are compatible with the following versions of the Adobe Acrobat Reader: English, German, French, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean. If you have a different version of the Acrobat Reader, you may wish to download one of these at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at tnrc@law.harvard.edu, 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.), or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.) for further assistance. This restriction does not apply to the freely available Teacher’s Package Review Copies.

Ordering a single copy for review

If you wish to review the materials for a particular role simulation to decide whether you’d like to use it, a PDF, or soft copy, version of the Teacher’s Package for the simulation is available as a free download from the description page of most role simulations and case studies. All Teacher’s Packages include copies of all participant materials. In addition, some Teacher’s Packages (but not all) include additional teaching materials such as teaching notes or overhead masters.

Ordering copies for multiple participants

To order multiple copies of a role simulation for use in a course or workshop, simply enter the total number of participants in the box next to “Quantity.” There is no need to calculate how many of each role is required.

If you are ordering hard copies, the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center will calculate the appropriate numbers of each role to provide, based on the total number of participants. For example, if you wish to order a 2-party role simulation for use with a class of 30 students, you would enter “30” in the box next to “Quantity.” You then would receive 15 copies of one role and 15 copies of the other role, for use with your 30 participants. As another example, if you ordered 30 participant copies of a 6-party role simulation, you would receive 5 copies of each role.

In the event that the number of participant copies you order is not evenly divisible by the number of roles in the simulation, you will receive extra copies of one or more roles. Participants receiving the extra roles may partner with other participants playing the same role, thus negotiating as a team. So, for instance, if you ordered 31 copies of a 2-party role simulation, you would receive 15 copies of the first role and 16 copies of the second role. One of the participants playing the second role would partner with another participant playing that same role, and the two would negotiate as a team.