One of the most obvious questions to be asked about coalition governments is what these governments do, but this question has received little systematic attention from coalition researchers. A key element of coalition governance that may inform our empirical knowledge of the actions of government – their origin, organization and results – is coalition agreements. Party leaders negotiating a new government invest time in writing coalition agreements, and they do this because they expect beneficial effects: more efficiency in coalition policy making, and more peace in the government. Written coalition agreements are considered to reduce uncertainty and mistrust, and this is why they have become institutionalized in countries with coalition governments. This article presents an approach to the comparative study of coalition conflicts as they emerge during government formation, the management of this conflict through drafting coalition agreements and the effects of this during coalition life. The article sets out a number of expectations about the effects of types of deals that parties make; and asks what types of conflict management are most effective and what are the conditions for enforcement – structural and strategic? In recent comparative work, the features of coalition agreements and mechanisms of coalition governance in Western Europe have received attention. This article sets out, with empirical material, how further comparative research on coalition governance may be developed.