Watch AGL Live: “Mind the Gap: Bridging Silos for Better Government”

In the latest AGL Live panel discussion, leaders of change in government organizations shared tips on bridging silos and spanning boundaries for lasting transformation. The event was moderated by AGL member Alexa Tsui.

Adding to the insight of the panelists, the event included lively audience participation from folks with experience public sector culture change.


  • Alex Cuva | Agile Coach & Mentor
  • Kitty Wooley | Senior Fellows and Friends (formerly U.S. Dept. of Education)
  • Michael Sahota | “Agile” Culture & Leadership – Trainer & Consultant
  • Linda Cureton | Muse Technologies (formerly CIO of NASA)

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Discussion Highlights

Change comes in through political leadership, but it’s only a temporary change unless you can get people on board through a real culture shift. Incentives for people to learn, grow, and communicate are helpful in creating this shift.

We train people to resist change by ignoring them and not involving them in the discussion. The purpose of any process or policy change is to improve how things are functioning, but PEOPLE are the ones doing the work. The approach for change must focus on people. Nobody wants to be told what to do, but they can be brought along into something they really believe will help them.

High performance comes when people are feeling safe (human brains are less smart and more reactive when they feel insecure). Create a culture of safety by saying things like “Let’s give it a try. It doesn’t have to be perfect.”

Tend to your gaps. In reorganizing or creating new initiatives, be vigilant to foster horizontal integration and communication between groups. This is more important than perfecting the new initiatives.

Train people to talk to people they don’t know or wouldn’t normally interact with in the organization, so you create a connective tissue that eventually serves to address communication gaps naturally. This allows organizational buckets and silos to co-exist and help each other.

Get people from all the different silos in a room. Educate them on the basic principles of changes the organization wants to make, and the trade-offs and challenges involved. Get them to work in groups to co-create and come up with solutions that they then share back to everyone else. You get group wisdom and intelligence to solve complex problems, AND everyone who was there understands why certain decisions were made.

Kill micromanagement by creating spaces where all team members are allowed and encouraged to ask questions and propose solutions. With practice, people start to understand that everyone has a voice and people start to care about helping to implement change.

Cross-functional and cross-practice communication is essential. Set up meetings, conference calls, and other opportunities to foster empathy and understanding between what people are working on. Then the bigger changes are easier. People are surprisingly willing to show up and meet other people — snacks and cookies help.  🙂

Leaders can exemplify boundary spanning by taking it upon themselves to empower others in their organization and make it clear that input and ideas are welcome. Start small, try something new, allow people to experiment and let them know you’ll back them up.


Audience Contributions

As the panelists shared their insights about getting people to talk to each other to help government processes work better, a lively conversation developed among the audience in the chat — many of whom themselves have experience in government transformation. Read the chat transcript here.

2019-05-22T18:23:28-08:00 May 22nd, 2019|Categories: Agile government, AGL Live|Tags: , , , , |

About the Author:

AGL served the government innovation community from 2014 - 2020. It has now broadened its mission and community to form a new organization, Technologists for the Public Good. Learn more and get involved at

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