I meet with business leaders to discuss the health, or unhealth, of their companies. Very often – very often, when asked about the source of their problems, leaders point “down”. The problems are (supposedly) happening down below, in the rank and file. And, most leaders get understandably frustrated with the discord – can’t people just get along?! Well, here’s the thing….what might look like a can’t-play-nice-in-the-sandbox issue, might be something bigger…..
Often, the bigger issue (masked as a personality problem) is one of “silos”. As many of you know, I’m big on perspective…perspective in healthy relationships, perspective in good communication, perspective in team dynamics, and perspective in productive interactions.
Silos limit perspective.
Silos allow departments to live autonomously – in their own world, free of concern or interaction with other departments. Not only counterproductive, this causes breakdowns and waste within organizations.
The “fix” is (close your fist with your thumb pointing upward)…yep, you got it, the fix will come from up top. The leadership can best help break down the walls of their silo issues by rallying the troops around a common goal – one that is shorter in duration (3-18 months depending on the industry, circumstances, company size), and one everyone can sink their teeth into. This is not the same as the corporate vision or the mission statement. It is a goal that is shared by the entire company. Every department head: marketing; accounting; operations; should be able to get their arms around this goal. How individual departments carry out and work toward this goal will be different, but the goal itself provides framework, structure, and a theme around which the business can build.
This “rally” goal might be something as simple as:
- Raise standard of patient care to better establish leadership position in community
- Complete merger integration
- Establish procedures and processes to secure company’s foundation
- Expand to meet increasing demand
Whatever it is, it should be an overarching goal – so every department contributes a perspective on how to fix it or make it happen. Departments can see each others’ viewpoint and contribution in working toward this common goal. Departments will get unified working together. But…there’s one more thing – it is up to the leadership to maintain focus….keeping this goal central to every task, to-do, and discussion in the company. With this attitude, companies will eliminate in-fighting, territory battles, finger-pointing, and maybe even a few personality problems!!