What People Are Saying About Working Across Boundaries

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View a sample chapter from Working Across Boundaries

Russ's new book, "Working Across Boundaries," was a finalist for the McAdam Book Award in 2002, given to the best book in non-profit management each year.


"Everywhere I go these days, people are struggling to get public organizations to collaborate. Thankfully, Russ Linden has studied what actually works in the field. His book is practical, very clear, and truly indispensable for anyone who needs to work across boundaries to get the job done."

David Osborne, co-author, Reinventing Government, The Reinventor's Fieldbook.

"Russ Linden has a knack for writing on precisely the right subject at the most appropriate time. Now he's done it again. Linden writes in a compelling way that makes his information most useful. He tells stories about real places and people to make his points. From what we see in our month-by-month reporting, he is right on target."

Peter Harkness, Publisher, Governing Magazine

"As we increasingly work across boundaries, Linden's book provides an important framework for collaboration and excellent examples of the power of this approach for practitioners."

Bob O'Neill, President, International City/County Management Association

"This is a wonderful book! It is clear, encouraging, smart, thoughtful, and interesting. Linden's wonderful mix conceptual maps and examples tell readers how to become successful partners in collaboration, and make them want to do it!"

Joey Rodger, President, Urban Libraries Council

"Given the concerns about the economy and national security, the topic of collaboration is both timely and valuable. In Pennsylvania state government, we have stressed the importance of collaboration between state agencies and with local governments ... and have seen tremendous benefits. The research in Linden's book plainly identifies barriers to effective collaboration, and highlights ways to make collaboration work. The ideas in this book have far-reaching potential to help governments and nonprofit agencies gain new efficiencies and effectiveness ..."

Charles F. Gerhards, Chief Information Officer, State of Pennsylvania

"Working Across Boundaries is a glimpse into the future of how government managers in the 21st century will increasingly work through networks, partnerships and collaboration. Russ Linden paints a picture using real examples of the dynamics to which government leaders will need to respond, in order to get results. Practitioners will be able to pick up this book and start applying its principles immediately."

John Kamensky, director, managing for results practice, IBM Consulting; former deputy director, National Partnership for Reinventing Government.

"This is a wonderful book for any government unit, non-profit organization that is interested in working across boundaries. It captures the spirit and essence of working across boundaries with real life examples. Any leader in government should read this book. You can use the techniques and suggestions to improve performance and recapture the spirit of innovation. Mr. Linden provides good resources and ideas to help managers and leaders work across boundaries."

Karl. H. Mettke, Program Leader, Employee & Labor Relations for the Forest Service, Eastern Region.

Russell M. Linden, a management trainer and consultant, stresses that collaborative efforts among nonprofit organizations and government agencies can lead to better use of scarce resources, better products, and better results. As problems become more complex, he says, the need for collaboration is heightened.

Mr. Linden also examines the obstacles to collaboration, such as an organization’s unwillingness to surrender power or its fear that the needs of the organization will be sacrificed, and offers possible solutions. The first step is to make sure that the right players are at the table, he says. One chapter profiles a nonprofit collaborative, Joint Venture: Silicon Valley, which initially attempted to combat the effects of the recession by working with business leaders. The group received criticism from the residents of the valley and the press and quickly decided to include educational, nonprofit, and community groups as well. This partnership has since led to many projects, including one involving businesses, nonprofit organizations, and volunteers in connecting area schools to the Internet.

Developing open, trusting relationships is, according to Mr. Linden, the “glue” for most collaborative ventures. He suggests starting meetings with a “check in” and organizing informal lunches to allow people to understand their partner’s needs. He also recommends that leaders emphasize the severity of situations that call for collaboration, or “raise the stakes,” to motivate their co-workers to overcome organizational self-interest. And he suggests that they take advantage of new technology to create stronger links among collaborators.

Through more than a dozen case studies, Mr. Linden explains why and how nonprofit organizations and government agencies should continue to seek out “creative ways to build bridges to other groups… for the purpose of creating better outcomes” for the people they serve.

Chronicle of Philanthropy, Washington DC. November 14, 2002.

"This book is primarily for practitioners," Russ Linden says in his preface. "It will help leaders the leaders and managers of our government and nonprofit organizations to appreciate collaboration's benefits, and it gives them a framework for getting started or getting unstuck." And it does.

Like his 1994 book, Seamless Government, Linden writes from the perspective of a consultant and practitioner - no nonsense, with practical advice, and lots of real world examples. He writes for busy people who want to absorb new ideas but don't have the luxury of time to read. This book is written in three segments with lots of headings that allow a quick read.

The book gives a good overview of what is collaboration, with a case study of how the Baltimore police and social workers teamed up to deal with child sex abuse cases. He then provides a framework for making collaboration work, drawing from this and other case studies, and wraps up with a checklist of various leadership issues, with more case examples.

Linden is compelling in his belief that government and nonprofit leaders have to adopt a new way of leading to be relevant. He describes a "nobody in charge" world where the focus of organizational changes have shifted from "within" to "between." He gives examples like the Pennsylvania Justice Network that resulted in sharing data between police jurisdictions - with Governor Tom Ridge as the network sponsor (and now he gets to do it big time!). He writes about the successful cleanup of Boston's polluted Charles River and how EPA's John DeVillars leadership made a difference. And he writes about how Dick Gregg used collaboration within the federal Financial Management Service - which prints 800 million checks a year -- to turn around a highly troubled agency on the brink of failure in the face of the Y2K challenge.

While you are waiting for your copy of this book, you can immediately read a range of case studies - Jossey-Bass has posted longer, more detailed versions of a number of Linden's case studies of collaboration on its website (www.josseybass.com) -- but if you do that, you'll miss the action framework and practical insights (and worksheets) that Linden has in his book. So you may want to wait. But don't wait too long because you'll want to put collaboration into action where you work.

John Kamensky (from his review of Russ's book, written for The Public Manager, Summer, 2003)

Just at the time we hear increasing demands for collaboration across government comes a very practical, well-written, and richly detailed book. Working Across Boundaries, by Russ Linden, takes on the critical challenge of how to turn good intentions (as in "we ought to collaborate") into reality.

Whether at the national level, in homeland security, intelligence gathering, or social programs, or the local level in health care, education, or mental health, or in the nonprofit world, solving complex, seemingly intractable problems requires collaboration across organizational boundaries. But collaboration has been historically a very difficult thing to do, honored more in the breach than the observance.

Linden takes this challenge on. In the opening section of the book, he explores the reasons for the growth of the interest in collaboration and provides a thorough and unflinching analysis of why successful collaboration has been so difficult. He then offers a "framework for collaboration" that suggest that success is possible when five conditions are met: (1) the basics are in place (e.g. a shared purpose or goal that none of the parties can accomplish alone, the right people are at the table and bring something to the table, etc.), (2) the principals to the collaboration have open, trusting relationships with each other, (3) the stakes are high, (4) the participants include a constituency for collaboration, and (5) the leadership follows collaborative principles.

In the third section of the book, Linden addresses some key collaboration issues, such as how to view collaboration as proceeding in phases that can be anticipated and planned for, how to build collaboration within a single organization, and how to build a collaborative culture.

As in his earlier book on work process reengineering (Seamless Government), Linden here includes many aids for the reader. Working Across Boundaries includes many illustrations, an assessment tool, a question and answer section, and other helpful devices.

Few books exist on this topic, especially for a government audience. It's worth checking this one out.

Government Training News, December 2002 p. 8

Today's managers must use numerous skills and resources in order to be effective and successful. And although there are numerous tools and techniques available to assist managers in their daily jobs, sometimes the best solution is simply working together. Or in other words, collaborating. I believe this is what Russ Linden's new book, Working Across Boundaries. ultimately encourages and demonstrates.

Although this sounds like a simple solution to many management problems, collaboration sometimes is more difficult to achieve than imagined. By nature, collaboration requires the participation of more than one individual or work unit. Mr. Linden points out that not everyone is interested in sharing information or working together for fear of losing control or autonomy.

Working Across Boundaries begins by defining collaboration and describing some of the benefits and advantages for those who choose this route. Several success stories are described such as the Baltimore Child Advocacy Center, the Columbia River Regional Forum, and the EARN Partnership in southern Maryland. Although each example is unique, all are very relevant to a variety of management related issues.

The second part of the book provides excellent information regarding establishing a framework for collaboration and the basic elements needed for such a venture. Again, numerous examples of successful organizations are provided in order to solidify the basic conditions that must be present for collaborative efforts.

The thrid and final section explains the different phases of collaboration along with providing keys to successful collaboration. EAch chapter of this section is full of though provoking information.

Mr. Linden has provided numerous case studies throughout the book to assist the reader with relating to particular issues confronting orgainzations. He also provides a wealth of resources including sample agendas, contracts, assessment tools and programs used by a variety of agenies and individuals.

Russ Linden has taken on the challenge of documenting the benefits, techniques, and tools needed to successfully implement collaboration in the workplace and with outside organizations. I highly recommend Working Across Boundaries to all government managers. Congratulations to Russ for a great book on a difficult subject.

Gary A. Huff, Town Manager, Blacksburg VA (from his review of Russ's book written for The Virginia Review)

"Russ Linden, who previously authored From Vision to Reality: Strategies of Successful Innovators in Government and Seamless Government: A Practical Guide to Re-engineering in the Public Sector, is a longtime leader in the reinventing government movement and is a top-notch practitioner. Linden reports in the preface that he has long been confounded by the difficulty agencies have in collaborating with each other. He works from three observations:

  1. The organizational environment surrounding government and nonprofit agencies today often requires collaboration.
  2. Increasing numbers of public and nonprofit managers and leaders understand the need for collaboration today.
  3. Yet, there is far more talk about collaboration than actual collaboration.

The book then focuses us on that knowing-doing gap. Linden's background helps balance the pre-occupation with process that dominates some guides with generous attention to some of the contextual issues that can escape notice. He talks about how to establish a sense of urgency, form trusting relationships among the principals, and create a constituency for collaboration. Illustrated by numerous charts and illuminated with quotes from government and nonprofit leaders, Linden provides a thoughtful guide to inter-organizational and interagency collaboration."

Excerpted from: "Building Collaborative Communities Newsletter," Vol. 1, #1.