We ponder: How is it that we don't know this person? Moreover, why are we clueless as to what project this employee is working on? We should have known. We are a senior leader, but clearly only a leader of our own corporate island. It appears we are waving a scepter from our own isolated throne. When and how did this happen?
There are companies that have individuals, groups, even subsidiaries, that conduct business in isolation with little concern as to the effect their activities have on the entire organization. The lack of an enterprise-wide perspective can lead many divisions to work in a proverbial silo.
These siloed employees will do their own work and only their work. This tendency is further encouraged through monetary compensation schemes that base incentive levels only on the way their department performs, not the whole organization.
It is no surprise that, with almost every risk assessment where I am investigating the continued underperformance of an organization, the assessments have one reality in common. These organizations tend to be misaligned in their direction, focus and sense of collective value. They tend to have little connection between the top and lower levels of the organization. The organization's vision and mission somehow gets lost between floors and across divisions, even though mission banners are displayed throughout the hallways.
Organizational silos can be perilous and detrimental. They can pose grim business risk, especially in larger organizations. One of the leading risks is the loss of organizational dexterity, resulting in the ability to be nimble enough to make critical decisions.
For employees, it can be incredibly lonely and frustrating as well. Imagine the state of mind of those who have to play the role of a lone ranger, working meticulously on task only to discover later due to their isolation that their work was redundant or completely out of business context. Some employees thrive in this guerrilla warfare environment, but, on the whole, it often jeopardizes the morale.
It is a senior-leadership team's job to tear down silo walls and ensure they stay down. Everyone in the organization should understand that, if the company is going to meet its goals, they shall do it as a united team. In addition, a watchful eye should also be kept on ensuring that all departments ascribe the same sense of value to the organization's collective efforts.
Too often I witness two departments working in a disconnected or even divergent manner. A common example of this behavior is with marketing and R&D. R&D focuses on market innovations to become industry leaders, while marketing is bolstering the organization's brand exposure.
Often the two rarely connect to decipher the collective value they are trying to achieve. Divisions, functionally, should be kept separate, but the focus and reason for the company's existence must always be in full view.
Highlighting the interdependency of divisions should encourage more collaborative cultures. If one department meets the goals of its department and another fails, then the entire company fails -- a "one for all and all for one" mentality.
JOANNA MAKOMASKI is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at email@example.com.
October 11, 2012
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