SILOS - WHEN MY DEPARTMENT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN OUR COMPANY
By Coach Lorne McAlister
Silos is the word that is used to describe departmental politics and territoriality within organizations. Silos in companies drive leaders crazy. Silos in companies diminish the potential of that company to fulfill its mandate, complete its tasks and compete successfully with its competition. Silos cause significant players in a company to lose sight of the big picture and to then focus on and force in place and play their individual pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. When Silos show up the “we and our” talk is replaced with “me and my” verbiage, Silos turn corporate comrades into schizophrenic competitors who grind their teeth, shoot themselves in the foot and stab themselves in the back.
Silos happen when department heads talk about “my team” instead or “our company”, “my budget” instead of “our corporate bottom line”, “my division” rather than “our company’s products and production lines.”
When you address and resolve the silo issue in any corporate structure you eliminate turf wars and departmental politics that often make the lives of workers miserable.
In agriculture, a silo is an airtight structure or pit in which green fodder is prepared and kept until it is ready and needed for feeding livestock.
In the corporate world, the word Silos is one of the ways to define what happens when individuals and departments are working in isolation. Silos is the individualism, insulation and isolation that happens as a result of the compartmentalize approach to work. Most companies and organizations are negatively impacted by the silos within their structure and style of operation. Silos occur when interdependence is replaced by independence.
WHEN SHOULD YOU DO THAT?
You can be proactive and define and deal with Silo’s right now. If you don’t do it now, you will do it when it’s crunch time for your organization. You won’t have a choice then.
When it’s “sink or swim” time, companies either find a way to unite and address the crises as a team or they stay fragmented and disintegrate.
Thematic Goal is the term Patrick Lencioni coined in Silos, Politics and Turf Wars.
They are the single, temporary, and qualitative goal that becomes the rallying cry that is shared initially by all members of the leadership team and ultimately, by the entire organization - and that applies for only a specified time period.
The Thematic Goal serves to align employees up and down the organization and provide an objective tool for resetting direction when things get out of sync.
The Thematic Goal forces forward a unifying transitional alignment structure in a company or organization. However, they are not a B.H.A.G. - big hairy audacious goal.
Just as silos create turf battles and corporate politics, a thematic goal is the single qualitative focus that is shared by the entire leadership team, and ultimately, by the entire organization and that pulls it together with a functional, focused, and forceful identity, purpose and passion.
The Thematic Goal overpowers, overplays and overrides this fracturing process.
A set of defining objectives, somewhere between four to six, provide the means message for implementation for the thematic goal
An additional set of ongoing standard operating objectives becomes the action agenda for each of the defining objectives.
There can be only one true thematic goal in a given period.
That’s not to say there aren’t other desires and hopes, and objectives at play, but none of them can be attempted at the expense of accomplishing the thematic goal.
If everything is important, then nothing is.
Something has to be the most important.
The Thematic Goal is not a number, and it is not even specifically measurable. It is a general statement of a desired accomplishment. It requires a verb, because it rallies people to do something. “Improve, reduce, increase, grow, change, establish, eliminate, and accelerate.”
The Thematic Goal does not live beyond a fixed time period, because that would suggest that it is an ongoing objective. To the contrary, it is a desired achievement that is particularly important during that period, and must therefore be accomplished in a corresponding time frame. That time frame is usually somewhere between three and twelve months, depending on the nature of an organization’s business cycle and its unique situation.
The Thematic Goal applies to everyone on the leadership team, regardless of their area of expertise or interest. While it is true that the Thematic Goal will naturally fit largely within one particular executives’ area of responsibility, it is critical that all team members take responsibility for the goal, and for doing anything they can to move the company - not just their own department - toward the accomplishment of that goal.
This means that executives must remove their functional hats, the ones that say finance or marketing or sales, and replace them with generic ones that say executive. They must dare to make suggestions and ask questions about areas other than their own, even when they know relatively little about those areas.
Defining Objectives give definition to Thematic Goals.
Once a Thematic Goal has been set, a leadership team must then give it actionable context so that members of the team know what must be done to accomplish the goal. These are called Defining Objectives because they are the components or building blocks that serve to clarify exactly what is meant by the Thematic Goal.
Like the Thematic Goals, defining objectives are qualitative and shared across the entire team. And because they define the thematic goal, by definition they will be bound by time. It’s worthwhile to examine the required elements of a defining objective in more detail.
There are generally four to six Defining Objectives which are developed and shared by all members of the team.
QUALITATIVE DEFINING OBJECTIVES:
Executives are often tempted to over quantify Defining Objectives because it gives them a sense of closure and certainty, especially after struggling with the notion that the thematic goal was not quantified. However, assigning numbers and dates to Defining Objectives only serves to limit the involvement of leadership team members who cannot see how they might directly impact a numerical target. Rest assured, quantification comes into play soon enough.
SHARED DEFINING OBJECTIVES:
It is critical that all leaders assume a very real sense of accountability and responsibility for achieving the Defining Objectives and the Thematic Goal. All executive members can and must play a critical role in ensuring that every angle is explored and every distraction is avoided. Often the best suggestions and ideas about an issue come from people not closely involved in that issue. They bring valuable objectivity, even naïveté, to the table
STANDARD OPERATING OBJECTIVES:
These often include topics like revenue and expenses, as well as other items like customer satisfaction, productivity, market share, quality and the like. The danger for a company lies in making one of these critical objectives, like revenue or expenses, for a rallying cry. Most employees find it difficult to rally around making the numbers or managing expenses, knowing that these will continue to be trumpeted as critical over and over again in future periods. These are action items, the essential implementations that bring about the Defining Objectives and The Thematic Goal.
TIME-BOUND DEFINING OBJECTIVES:
When the Thematic Goal is no longer valid, the Defining Objectives also change.
Once the Thematic Goal, the Defining Objectives, and the Standard Operating Objectives have been established, a leadership team can now start talking about measurement.
IDENTIFYING A THEMATIC GOAL:
Deciding on a Thematic Goal can sometimes seem difficult. The key to finding the right one is to let a team discuss it for a while, without feeling the need to arrive at a quick decision. Oftentimes, a team’s initial guess at the Thematic Goal will actually be one of the Defining Objectives that create the context for the goal.
You would have to have been in Sunday school a couple of decades ago to be able to sing and do the actions to this tune.
“When we all pull together, together, together,
When we all pull together
How happy we’ll be
For your work, is my work
And our work is God’s work
When we all pull together
How happy we’ll be.”
Now if you suspect the Silo's is what you are dealing with in your work world then a good place to start to deal them is to get a copy of Patrick Lencioni's book Silos Politics and Turf Wars.
Toyota Corporation is a great illustration of a company that used all its resources and corporate muscle to resolve a series of crucial matters impacting various parts of their line of vehicles. The production line was shut down for eight days. The corporate head was standing in front of a microphone making a worldwide statement about the seriousness of the problem, the apology that it happened and the focus, the force and the funds to fix it. Restoring trust in Toyota's vehicles became the Thematic Goal. Money and manpower at all levels was poured into the fix, NOW.
What's the one thing that has to change or that has to happen if we are going to have our preferred future?
What situation do we need to resolve, what system do we need to correct, what process do we need to fix so that we can survive and thrive?
What needs to become the single, qualitative, time bound, shared Thematic Goal for our company for the next three to twelve months?
What are the four to six Defining Objectives for our Thematic Goal?
What are the Standard Operating Objective that must be put in place to meet the Defining Objectives and to reach The Thematic Goal?
"Nothing can be changed until it is faced." James Baldwin