Friday, January 20, 2017

The Gaps Caused by Silo-Thinking

Silo thinking builds the wall in people’s mind and sets barriers in the human's heart.

Silo is a universal problem facing businesses, especially for large mature organizations or our society as a whole today. And most people don't realize which gaps it is causing, how much pain it is bringing or the cost to the organization. Nowadays, businesses are moving into the hyperconnected, accelerated digital continuum, how to break down silo thinking, and embrace holistic thinking in building a high-performing organization?

Silo causes functional gaps: The industrial organization with a silo functional setting is to achieve a certain level of efficiency. However, it creates gaps and often causes unhealthy internal competitions. Many think silo happens when the business operates from a fear standpoint, fear of rejection, fear of invisibility, fear that other peoples' accomplishments will somehow diminish your own, etc. It reduces a sense of belonging and connection to your organization's larger mission. So, people will focus on inward protecting budgets and power structures rather than focusing outward on customers and problem-solving thinking. Managers tend to respond to silos by reorganizing, but this is hardly ever the most important aspect of the place to start. What you need to do is change thinking. At their heart, silos are not a structural issue, they are the result of poor thinking; or lack of holistic think, system thinking, and strategic thinking. At the individual level, Silos might make you feel isolated and “powerful,” but they form a very insecure basis for the ego which is why it never really feels good to work in an environment like that. At the business level, silo creates barriers that surface between departments within an organization, causing people who are supposed to be on the same team to work against each other, and it is one of the most frustrating aspects of life in any large mature organization.

Silo causes communication and collaboration gaps: Silos will always exist. A company is made up silos called functions, and the functions rely on company/cross-functional strategy, process, and communication. Silo causes cross-functional communication and collaboration gaps. Silos can start, and flourish, under poor leadership thinking. Silos cause slowness and small-thinking. They are the result of poor strategic thinking and organizational design. Isolation of teams limits creativity as well as duplication of efforts resulting in wasting valuable resources especially when you are always facing tight timelines. This is definitely a reflection of poor leadership thinking. There are top leaders accountable for the business and it depends on their desire/ vision/ ability to collect their team’s input and commitment to define and implement a 'business plan on a page" as a unified team. To break down silos, digital leaders have to not only provide clear process guidelines but also see that the teams are embracing cross-functional collaboration and taking customer-centric effort as well. The solution to breaking down silo is to apply bigger thinking, to implement an effective cross-silo strategy, better integral processes, and collaborative communication.

Silo causes motivation gaps: Outdated performance management would encourage silo thinking and enlarge collaboration gaps. Silos will be inevitable as long as the rewards for collaboration are outweighed by the rewards for competition. If a manager sees his/her success measured against the manager in the next office ( another silo), rather than sharing expertise to the overall benefit of the organization, then he/she will be inclined to erect barriers to stop the collaboration. Leveraging "self-interest" can be very powerful in unifying silos –or WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) thinking. Take functionally tailored approaches, such as apply incentive compensation for employees in revenue-producing functions, internal digital forums for customer service, and social networks as a mechanism for cross-functional/ cross-silo unification. The mitigation is to leverage the self-interest that causes them and undermines the silo mentality by fostering social / business networks of "self-interest" or common interest across silos, in order to enhance communication and enforce collaboration.

Silo thinking builds the wall in people’s minds and set barriers to organizational strategy management. Great organizations are supposed to maximize individual and group potential. Only through effective digital leadership, dynamic business processes, and the latest digital social collaboration technologies and tools, the silo can be crossed over and bridged through, the business can be running at full speed, and human society can move forward in harmony.


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