Preventing dysfunction and improving policy advice: the role of intra-departmental boundary spanners

Gemma Carey, Fiona Buick, Melanie Pescud, E Malbon

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    It is well established in the public management literature that boundary spanners - people or groups that work across departments or sectors - are critical to the success of whole of government and joined-up working. In studying recent unprecedented change to central government agencies in the Australian context, our research identified that intra-departmental boundary spanners also play a critical role in the functioning of government departments, particularly during restructuring. Although most contemporary literature in public management concentrates on boundaries across formal organisational entities (departments, agencies, sectors), boundaries also exist within departments. Our research has found that without dedicated intra-departmental boundary spanners, significant role confusion and dysfunctional practices arise. In turn, this has serious implications for the quality of policy advice given to Cabinet. Further research needs to be undertaken into both the role of intra-departmental boundary spanners and how to nurture and manage the practice of intra-departmental boundary spanners. This is especially the case if changes in Australia represent a fundamental shift more broadly in the way central government agencies operate.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)176-186pp
    JournalAustralian Journal of Public Administration
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


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