Partnerships and Horizontal Management

… a core concept used in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107

Concept description

Leslie Pal (reference below) describes the factors that are increasing the relevance of partnerships and horizontal management.

Pal writes (pages 253-255):

“Governments around the world are increasingly concerned with policy coherence and developing “horizontality.” In a sense, any government is itself an example of horizontal management; cabinets are, for example, mechanisms to develop collective decisionmaking across portfolios. Central agencies such as the Privy Council Office or the Treasury Board are also mechanisms of coordination. What is new is that this interest in horizontality is extending to all levels of government bureaucracy, with the growing expectation that government departments will work more closely and collaboratively with each other to solve problems that cut across bureaucratic jurisdictions, that they will work more closely and collaboratively with other departments in other jurisdictions, and that they will increasingly partner with nongovernmental actors. While horizontal management is not necessarily the best way to approach every policy issue, at the federal level there is a sense that it is a reality that is here to stay.”

“It is best to think of horizontal management as a continuum running from a minimalist to a maximalist level of coordination (Peters, 1998). The minimal level entails nothing more than mutual recognition of activities and an effort not to duplicate or interfere. At the maximalist end of the continuum, one will find partnerships based on formal agreements about objectives, resource sharing, and coordinating procedures. Partnering arrangements can be of various types: consultative (sharing information), operational (sharing work), or truly collaborative (sharing decisionmaking).” [See Kernaghan’s Classification of Partnerships.]”

“When governments enter into partnerships, by necessity they relinquish power and control. In cases of substantial loss of control, however, the government agency is still in some measure responsible for the expenditure of public funds and for outcomes, yet those expenditures and outcomes may be determined more by the partner than by the government agency. Government organizations are used to operating in a hierarchical, top-down fashion, but partnering implies spheres of autonomy as well as coordination for the different partners. How should they combine that autonomy, the prime contribution of the partnership agreement, with accountability for performance and results? As Langford put it: “As part of this move, contemporary managers must develop the relationship-building, negotiating, contract management, risk assessment, and performance measurement skills required to work effectively in a partnership world” (Langford, 1999, p. 108).”

See also: Kernaghan’s Classification of Partnerships; Public-Private Partnership Models.

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Implementing through Partners and Networks (core topic) in Implementation and Delivery and Atlas107.


Leslie Pal (2014), Beyond Policy Analysis – Public Issue Management in Turbulent Times, Fifth Edition, Nelson Education, Toronto. See Beyond Policy Analysis – Book Highlights.

Langford, J. (1999). Governance challenges of public-private partnerships. In S. Delacourt & D.G. Lenihan (Eds.), Collaborative government: Is there a Canadian way? (pp. 105-111). Toronto, ON: Institute of Public Administration of Canada.

Peters, B. G. (1998). Managing horizontal government: The politics of coordination (Research Paper No. 21). Ottawa, ON: Canadian Centre for Management Development. [Note also Peter’s 2015 book featured in the image above and link below.]

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 7 April 2017.

Image: University Press of Kansas, Pursuing Horizontal Management – The Politics of Public Sector Coordination, B. Guy Peters (2015), at, accessed 6 April 2017.