Silo Busting

Silos crop up in organizations when there is a lack of trust.  Departments, regions and co-workers try desperately to mark their territory and keep a tight fist on resources and information.  It’s not a healthy situation.  This results in closed doors, back stabbing and, frequently, loss of good personnel.  They take off for more forthcoming, open organizations.

Silos in your personal life crop up when you don’t tell your husband about the exam your son failed at school.  Why bring him into it?  He’ll probably get angry.  Your son will get embarrassed and defensive.  Let’s just put up a wall on the information to keep the peace.  Suddenly you’ve laid your first brick in your own personal silo.  The “keep bad news away from Dad’ silo.  In the long run, when someone finds out who knew what and when, the trust might be irreparable.

So how do you go about some silo busting?  Here are some ideas

1. Open.  Be open with your communication.  This can be difficult; especially, if the culture is to keep your cards close.  It starts with you.  If you just got some information that might negatively affect the business or one department in particular.  Take the first step and be open with the information.

2. Drop.  As in drop the assumptions.  This moment never happened before.  You really don’t know how that manager, child or customer might react.  You might have an educated guess but leave your assumptions out of it.  They are frequently a self fulfilling prophecy.  “Suzie always gets angry when I mention the sales forecast.”  Hmmm, regardless of Suzie’s reaction you are going to be looking to fulfill your assumption and any reaction Suzie has will be categorized in your mind as “anger”.

3. Love.  Sounds crazy but I do this especially if I am angry with a colleague (or ex) .  I imagine myself embracing them.  It’s hard to throw someone under the bus if you recently imagined embracing them.  We are all human and deserve caring folks around us.  It’s real hard to lay the first brick of a silo if you promote a caring culture.

4. Share.  This straight out of the “Essentials of Leadership” from Development Dimensions International,  “Share thoughts, feelings and rationale.”  It builds trust.  Explain to your husband why you were reluctant (feelings) to tell him about the failing test score.  Tell your colleague why (rationale) you would like to delay the project.  Trusting environments rarely have silos.

5. Promoter.  Be a promoter within your work group.  Make sure your employees are drinking the same Kool-Aid.  If your employees know that you are an open book on information and resources, they will follow suit.  Do not reward those who withhold important information to other departments.   It starts with you

6. Vacuum.  Don’t tolerate a vacuum on information or resources.  Take a deep breath and take the first step (this is more difficult for some of us who hate rocking the boat).  Pick up the phone or, better yet, (if you can) go be eyeball to eyeball with that guy you think is trying to build a silo.  “Hey Joe, I haven’t heard the status on Project X and my understanding is that you do….what gives?”  Be a silo preventer.

Depending on the organization, work unit or family culture, this can be difficult.  You can’t choose your family but you can choose the organization you work for.  If you are sensing there are too many silos and there aren’t any silo busters like you around?  The best strategy might be finding a place without any silos.

What do you think?

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