Mission: breaking down the silos (part 1)

Why organizations live in silos? Why people tend to build barriers over their tasks? Key explanation is that major companies rarely have common cultures, although the top management may think so. The strong cultures are tied to business units, country organizations, and different roles or projects.  These have their own identity – and they prefer to be independent. Good or bad, let´s discuss.

Organizational sub-cultures originate from big personalities.  Strong organizations let strong individuals shine. As a counter effect, they tend to build the highest silos. Top management needs to conciliate.

Do we even need the to break down the organizational silos, if the independent units are performing well?

The answer is “yes” (for breaking down the silos), if company resources are not coordinated and synergy opportunities are not realized. The most common outcome of the silos is friction in decision making and resource management. In most of the larger companies, silos tend to be big managerial issue.

The answer is “no”, if independence seeds new thinking models, innovations and result competitiveness. Tolerance of low silos may bring better motivation, agility and creativity for small teams. In this case, the management trusts on clever and ambitious people. If low silos do not prevent sharing and caring the other parts of the organization, they are no problem.

How to break down the silos?

By bringing people from different roles and different parts of the organization for co-creation. In the process, the different thinking models are benchmarked and challenged about running the business. Methodology is the key – it must give room for listening to the colleagues, iteration, prototyping and clever synthesis. All participants are given room to express their honest opinions about the current traditions, criticize, give support – difficult issues are spoken out. This can be applied on challenges on all levels: strategic, operative.

Opposing views are analyzed carefully. The strongest persons are not allowed to lead the game. As silos are broken down, different thinking models will be benchmarked and analyzed. Honesty, tolerance and dialogue are the key words. This approach is the only way to rationalize new thinking – and to support the implementation of the new. I will explain the process of creating this synthesis in the forthcoming blogs.

Key: bringing down the silos is sense making about common objectives

Bringing the silos down results fluency in decision making. If done right, it does not take away any organizational independence.

In the experience of the Steps Ahead team, breaking down the silos is first and foremost a methodological issue.  One of the most fascinating cases has been the go-to-market projects. These are the organizational roundabouts where people tend to have different thoughts about the best practice and roles setting.  We bring cross-role people together to simulate cross-business-unit tasks.

Hannu Mattinen

Please contact hannu (dot) mattinen (at) stepsahead (dot) fi to discuss about organizational barriers and breaking down the silos. We have several show cases to present for you.


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