The Silo is Dead. Long Live the Silo!

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First: organizational silos are not a bad thing.

They are created by pools of expertise, required in matrix organizations and in compliance-driven businesses.

Second: silos are bad – very bad – for the customer when the silos hide behind their expertise, hoard power and lack expertise in collaboration.

They also encourage passivity among those silos that perceive they lack power or influence.

Silo management, solution focus, employee engagement

Some organizations are very good at avoiding silo issues – my favorite example is Zappos (no job titles, no managers, no hierarchy!) – but it will be a while before that approach takes root.

Silos struggle for power and/or act aimlessly when the leader and executive team are not aligned around vision/mission, values and, in particular, the customer strategy (never mind the operational and organizational strategy). Bottom line, silos reduce collective impact.

1. The hidden cost is lost productivity and ineffective alignment with the customer.

2. A visible cost is the inability to deal effectively with change or competitive threat.

3. Lack of alignment also prevents the utilization of people and financial resources to become even more effective for the customer, e.g., your CRM system needs upgrading, but internal conflict constrains both thinking about the strategy for the system and the allocation of funds.

4. The people making progress on strategy and focusing on the customer are constrained in their customer engagement by the people working with a silo mindset.

But, this is not news. Having clarified the issue how do we use some Solution Focus tools to turn it into an opportunity?

Or, while we await executive alignment, what can we do to help the teams begin to collaborate? How can Solution Focus make a contribution?

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Here’s an example from a recent meeting where several groups had been finding it difficult to align around a customer experience project. Note how the language of the agenda is both solutions and outcome focused.

How do we know this works?

As one manager said after several customer co-creation kitchen tables, ‘We now never start a meeting, especially with cross-functional teams, without asking, ‘How will this discussion be useful to the customer?’