Culture Design Leadership Purpose Team effectiveness

Those good old silos. Seven tactics to make them go away.

Organizational silos are persistent and hard to overcome. Here are seven tactics to make it happen.

Joyce, my brilliant Organizational Development mentor, often used the following quote when we talked about Organization Design:

“Every organization is perfectly designed for the results it gets. 

Joyce Wilson Sanford

In other words, if your results are below expectations, there’s a big chance your design is flawed.

And vice versa, when you’re doing great, your organization works for you.

Keep looking at the roof while the sun shines and adapt proactively when needed.

Create your own s&#t storms before somebody or something else does it.

Stay on your toes.

This is my lead-in to silos and us vs. them cultures.

The word silos has been around forever and still is.

Even in this hyperconnected networked world we live and work in.

It has never been easier to be connected across functional boundaries, and it still doesn’t happen in many places.

Here are the seven tactics to make those organizational silos disappear:

#1. Clear Purpose.

Collaboration across functions becomes easier when everyone personally connects to a clear, compelling, and exciting company purpose.

#2. Your Org. Design needs a refresh.

I’m sorry, but the classical org. chart is outdated. This is a networked world where people expect to work across functional borders. You need people in your team that serve different functions. You need to know who the networkers are. 

#3. Joined Ownership and Rewards.

This is a hard one. People like to have their performance rewarded. But just like in sports, there’s also a team effort. When you work with a common purpose, you can also design a reward structure that rewards team performance. You need to think this through, though. What incentives really motivate us to work together?

#4. Demanding Expectations.

Pay well and expect a return. When you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. It’s just like that. When you want talent, you need to pay. And then find a way to inspire them and keep them motivated. And expect top-level leadership practices in return. Talent that doesn’t know how to grow people does not belong in your team. 

#5. Frequent Communication.

One of those expectations is that your leaders are visible, connected, communicate frequently, and invest most of their time in leading their teams. When the laptop is a bigger friend than their team, you’re in trouble. They need to love to work with their people and lead the team to success through them.

#6. Relentless Talent movement.

Never, ever accept that people hold on to their favorite team members. When you sense protectiveness, move them around. As soon as you can. Build a system where movement is expected, applauded, and appreciated. 

As soon as the borders of the comfort zone come into sight, it’s time to move.

Take it or leave it.

#7. True Leadership.

What is true leadership?

In this example about silos, true leadership is getting comfortable with reasons one through six above.

Can you build a leadership culture that does all of the above, keep it going in good and bad times, role model these behaviors, inspire others to do the same, and role model these often uncomfortable behaviors at all times?

Then, you’re demonstrating true leadership.

Your turn: Are the silos gone? 

Do more of what makes you happy!


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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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