JJ's (June 2013) Tips in this issue:
1. Breaking Silo Mentality
Use the following tips as training tools.
Present this situation to your group and brainstorm solutions together, or submit your own situation question to be answered in an upcoming newsletter.
A reader emailed, "I was wondering: have you ever sent out anything about 'breaking the Silo mentality?' We have many silos; the entire corporation is divided into several business units--those could be called the main silos. It cascades from there...all the way down to our team, where we have several small silos. Out of necessity, the 'farmhands' must communicate or even walk over to the other silos and work together on projects; but, for the most part, the mentality is very territorial."
Silos do exist in most companies, large and small. Fast Company wrote an article called "Smash Your Silos." It stated that "silos serve a purpose. But company silos also cause problems--that same structure prevents the flow of information, focus, and control outward. And in order for a company to work efficiently, decisions need to be made across silos." When this isn't happening, you have nonaligned priorities, lack of information flow and lack of coordinated decision making across silos.
Fast Company also stated that "Silos occur naturally because of the way organizations are structured. Each part of a company reports up to a manager who has responsibility only for that part of the company. But none of the parts is truly independent. Each relies on others to perform its function, and the company performs well only when each of these sometimes many parts or units work closely together.
This kind of company structure is also necessary because it keeps accountability and responsibility in the silo. It also fosters a sense of independence and pride of ownership, which is a good thing. Senior management’s role is to look broadly at the organization; a department manager’s is to look deeply into his or her own area. The problem is, doing this creates what I call 'tower vision'. Managers tend to look up and down only within their own silos--never looking around or across--so all they see, and tend to think about, is their own silo. They don’t know what is happening elsewhere in the organization or how their actions impact other areas. They act primarily in the interest of their own silo. Cooperation, communication, and collaboration are the three keys to working across silos."
In my years of consulting with companies of all sizes, I have addressed the silo problem over and over. The process I use was developed for a very large IT team that wanted to become a well-oiled world-class team in two years. Their Help Desk Manager had seen me present a program at a large help desk conference. She asked her new IT Director to hire me for customer service training for her help desk team.
The IT Director hired me to improve customer service and teamwork. After evaluating their environment I found what they actually needed was more cooperation, communication and collaboration within their own team, and then how to use those skills to cross over to other teams.
Shortly afterward, all the teams attended the intermixed team seminars that were focused on improving customer service and teamwork.
Then we planned a group meeting with all of the different teams within the large team. They were instructed to bring all their complaints, concerns and gripes about the other teams with them to the meeting. Once they were seated with their team, a person was introduced as the scribe who would take notes on all the conversations. A flip chart was used at first as a visual aid and then the computer to make the notes that would be distributed to everyone later.
As moderator, I asked the representative from each team to stand up (one at a time) and tell the other teams (one at a time) the things his or her team would like to have that team change or do. They would then explain how that would help their team function better. After their list of requests was completed, the representative was instructed to ask, "How can our team be more helpful to yours?" Then they were to listen and take notes on their suggestions without an immediate rebuttal.
By the time a few teams had taken their turn with this open communication process, the rest of the teams could hardly wait for their turn! Finally all the teams had communicated and listened to each other. It was an exhilarating experience for everyone and the start of breaking the silo mentality!
Their increased cooperation, communication and collaboration across the teams made them a well-oiled world-class team in the two years I worked with them!
Start where you are with the small silos on your team with this process. If you are working on a smaller scale with individuals who appear to be territorial and uncooperative, start with asking how you or your team could be helpful to them. As they open up with what you can do for them you can interject what they could do to help you and your team. It's a slower process but it will work if done with sincerity and perseverance.
Then follow through and be accountable with meetings to assess your progress and results, and ask the same of them. Continue to collaborate, communicate and align your priorities and decision making across all the silos you encounter.
It can start with you -- right where you are whether you are in management or not ! After all, breaking the silo mentality is done one person at a time and it can snowball across the whole company in time! Suggest it to decision makers and help them see the huge benefits of breaking the silo mentality on your team, department and company. It would create a triple win!
"I am personally convinced that one person can be a change catalyst, a
"We learn and grow and are transformed not so much by what we do but by
DO YOU WANT TO IMPROVE in an area? Service? Sales?
EVALUATION OF YOUR ENVIRONMENT
Have you had an Evaluation of Your Environment lately so you could receive suggestions on improving it? (It's like the doctor's check up, you often don't know you need it, until after you've had it.)
JJ Lauderbaugh, CMC
JJ works with companies that want to give exceptional customer service to increase sales,
and with Directors and Call Center/Help Desk Managers who want to improve human
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