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A manager’s guide to resolving conflicts in collaborative networks

O’Leary, R. & Bingham, L. B. (2007). Center for the Business of Government Washington, DC.

Collaboration continues to grow in importance, and public managers are increasingly using collaborative networks as a tool to accomplish public outcomes. Previous IBM Center reports on collaboration include “Leveraging Networks: A Guide for Public Managers Working Across Organizations” by Robert Agranoff, which describes the critical success factors for using networks to achieve important results. Another report, “A Manager’s Guide to Choosing and Using Collaborative Networks” by H. Brinton Milward and Keith G. Provan, describes the roles and tasks managers need to fulfill in a network environment. The O’Leary and Bingham report expands on previous Center reports by adding an important practical tool for managers in networks: how to manage and negotiate the conflicts that may occur among a network’s members. The approach they describe—interest-based negotiation—has worked in other settings, such as bargaining with unions. Such negotiation techniques are becoming crucial in sustaining the effectiveness of networks, where successful performance is defined by how well people collaborate and not by hierarchical commands.