“I can sum up all our problems in a few words: ‘silos and butt-covering.’”
A good author doesn’t date stories or quotes in his books because doing so gives the reader or audience member a built-in objection. They might think, Hmm, old. Must not be relevant anymore.
In this case, though, knowing that an executive made the statement above to me in the mid 1990’s might actually help. You might think, Huh, I see nothing has changed!
That is, you could think that if you work for an organization …
It’s true. Twenty years and a whole bunch of “team-building” later, our places of work still have silos. Vertical, nonphysical, and unwalled, usually called departments, regions, districts, or “the home office.”
And costly. Costly because they truly prevent us from functioning as “one team, one goal.” It really is time to demolish them, don’t ‘ya think?
Now, we’re not suggesting an organization shouldn’t have departments. The term “silos,” though, has a different meaning—such as blame, turf protection, and lack of communication.
So why do silos exist?
A quick aside (but not really):
I always chuckle when a potential client reaches out and says, “John, we’ve read QBQ! and really like its focus on personal accountability. We’re thinking of hiring you to speak, but we have a question: Have you ever spoken for our industry?”
I always answer that question with this question:
“Well … do you have … people?!”
If an organization has people, it has problems.
And one of the biggest problems is this: People build silos.
I picked up another executive quote in recent times while doing research for Outstanding! Gesturing toward the large window in his corner office, he said, “We work awfully hard every day to remember that the enemy is out there!”
That’s the way it should be, because in our complex, competitive, and ever-changing world there is simply no room for competing with one another internally. It’s stated in the Bible: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Nor can it be outstanding.
So let’s demolish those silos beginning with burning this truth into our minds:
We’re all on the same team.
That’s a principle we still need in our organizations. Just today, as this blog was about to be posted, a manufacturing executive said to me over the phone, “John, we have an environment marked by low trust and high silos.”
Yep, nothing’s changed.
What are silos costing your organization and what will you do today to knock one down?