Silos

Tony Bennett / Grain Silos at Flagrass Hill. Via Wikimedia Commons

Tony Bennett / Grain Silos at Flagrass Hill. Via Wikimedia Commons

Functional silos are a well-recognised problem in organisational design.

The danger is that separate functions become like fortresses, mini fiefdoms with their own internal rules, reluctant to share information with other silos, poor at ‘passing the baton’ to the next silo when needed, optimising their internal operation at the expense of the whole.

Common solutions involve finding ways to pierce the boundaries between silos - cross-functional teams, rotating people around functions, modelling processes with swim lanes to represent the function responsible.

I think the problem is more fundamental.

Functions are a manifestation of a profoundly internal view of a business. They are about the organisation and the hierarchy, not about the client or customer. They encourage people to forget the Promise the organisation makes and who it makes that Promise to.

So I believe the solution needs to be more radical too.

Instead of trying to build bridges between silos, or tunnel through them, or create elaborate schemes for inter-silo communication, we should simply re-focus the business on clients, and build our organisational framework around making and keeping our Promises to them.

The beauty of this approach is that it makes everything much clearer and simpler for everyone, and its easier to scale.

Kirsten Gibbs