UA scholars unravel network tangles
Eller College of Management professors draw on research expertise to create essential guide for public sector managers
TUCSON, Ariz. – JUNE 7, 2006 – Networks of organizations that provide public services like community trauma care, child welfare, and crime prevention often find coordinating their joint activities daunting. How do you manage when there is no chain of command? Now, due to the work of two Eller College of Management professors, solutions for managing these networks, upon which public organizations critically depend, are available.
H. Brinton Milward, McClelland Professor and Director of the School of Public Administration and Policy at the Eller College of Management, and Keith G. Provan, Eller Professor of Public Administration and Policy, have together established a worldwide reputation for their extensive research on networks and how they work. Under the auspices of a grant from the IBM Center for the Business of Government, these experts combined their expertise and produced A Manager’s Guide to Choosing and Using Collaborative Networks. The resulting publication is an easy-to-understand handbook for public-sector managers.
“This publication is unique because it is not based on a few case studies but rather on more than 15 years of joint research,” said Milward. “The guidebook is a tool that all three sectors — public, private, and nonprofit — will find valuable because it offers means of managing networks that do not depend on command and control.”
According to the authors, networks emerge or are created for a specific purpose — usually to respond to a problem that is long-standing like homelessness or emergent like terrorism. Networks are a way to allow organizations to specialize in what they do best, and to collaborate on services they provide in common, all the while keeping bureaucracy to a minimum. For example, in the case of Hurricane Katrina relief, Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad Allen led the recovery effort working with local government agencies including the police and fire departments. The for-profit services providers included the likes of roofing companies, insurance companies, etc., and the non-profits entered the network of responding organizations with the Red Cross, hospitals, and other disaster agencies. All of these entities report to different people in very different types of organizations but, nevertheless, formed the response network.
There are, however, significant managerial challenges that must be overcome if the network is to succeed. These challenges include holding partner organizations (and their managers) accountable for their actions, as well as managing conflict. In their publication, Milward and Provan provide the tools needed by managers to effectively obtain legitimacy, accountability, and commitment, as well as to create structure and manage conflict.
The publication is free and will soon be available from the IBM Center for the Business of Government electronically or in hard copy at www.businessofgovernment.org. For more information about the publication or about managing networks contact Milward at 520-621-7476 or Provan at 520-621-1950.
About the IBM Center for the Business of Government
Through research stipends and events, the IBM Center for the Business of Government stimulates research and facilitates discussion on new approaches to improving the effectiveness of government at the federal, state, local, and international levels. The Center is one of the ways that IBM seeks to advance knowledge on how to improve public sector effectiveness. The IBM Center focuses on the future of the operation and management of the public sector.
The Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona is internationally recognized for pioneering research, innovative curriculum, distinguished faculty, excellence in management information systems, entrepreneurship, and social responsibility. U.S. News & World Report ranks the Eller undergraduate program #12 among public business schools and two of its programs are among the top 20 — Entrepreneurship and MIS. U.S. News & World Report ranks the Eller MBA Full-Time program #48 in the U.S. The College leads the nation’s business schools in generating grant funds for research. In addition to a Full-Time MBA program, the Eller College offers the 25th ranked Evening MBA program, the Eller Executive MBA and the Online MBA. The Eller College of Management supports more than 5,000 undergraduate and 600 graduate students on the UA campus in beautiful Tucson, Arizona.
Liz Warren-Pederson, Eller College of Management
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