The Death of Silo Management

Coronavirus and the Death Of Silo Management

If you spend any time talking about or reading about working from home, you may have noticed the focus tends to be on managing in the new hybrid workplace. Companies are contemplating different workplace scenarios. The office as we knew it will most probably change. There is something else that has changed as well.  

Collaboration is now more than a kumbaya moment. Collaboration is no longer theoretical. You can see the criticality of collaboration in the wealth of collaborative digital tools now available to businesses of all sizes. Using these work tools, mitigates separation and maximizes integration. Many of these have zoomed by Zoom.

  • Microsoft’s Teams has leveraged its synergies with Office and its cloud-computing platform. Teams is pre-packaged in its Business Office suite.
  • purchased the collaborative Slack business product for $27.7 billion. 
  • Google is promoting its newly organized suite of products as Google Workspace. Along with new products, Google’s advertising hypes its familiar options as a valuable collaborative tool. Google Business Email, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Docs and Google Meet are now dished up as a total package for “How teams of all sizes connect, create and collaborate.

When people work apart, the need for cross-functional sharing becomes more apparent. This intense focus on collaboration while working from home may finally be the death-knell for silo management and its evil twin silo mentality. Collaboration is collapsing these corporate killer constraints.

Silo management is the separation of functions where employees protect their area of responsibility from other employees. Silo management means each operational group creates its own insular management. This insularity means that information is not shared throughout the brand-business. 

Organizational silos inhibit the brand-business’ ability to deliver integrated customer-perceived brand value. Silos hamper brand-business growth and governance in these ways: 

  • Silos slow brand-business development. 
  • Silos impede enduring profitable growth of the brand-business. 
  • Silos are dangerous. 
  • Silos create segregation and selfishness.
  • Silos are harmful to brand-business health. 
  • Silos create all sorts of bad brand-business behaviors, such as hoarding information, stopping the spread of ideas, creating internal conflicts and reinforcing the status quo.
  • Silos reinforce the lack of accountability for brand-business results. It is always the other silo’s fault.

Any farmer will tell you that silos are for storing, not sharing. 

Brand-businesses suffer when an organization allows functional isolation rather than institutional integration, as follows:

  • When an organization protects management from risk. 
  • When an organization deflects accountability. 
  • When an organization inflates a single group or a person. 
  • When an organization is less conducive to creativity and collaboration. 
  • When the brand-business mindset is shareholder value supported by financial engineering.

There is really nothing more oppressive than the organizational protectionism of powerful silos.

Pandemic lock downs with work-from-home forced employees to share information. One pandemic outcome is the demonstrated wisdom of shared learning. Shared learning is valuable. There is a significant negative cost associated with information hoarding.

For example, one extremely silo-focused hospitality company discovered that resources were spent on over 100 global research studies on breakfast. Another 50 global research studies focused on fitness and gyms offerings. Each group believed its research was proprietary, not to be shared across geography and function. The purchasing department showed that millions of dollars along with hundreds of hours of time and energy were spent on gaining the same information. 

That kind of unproductive, inefficient brand-business behavior is no longer acceptable

In a Financial Times article on Microsoft, reporter Richard Waters wrote, “On a single day during the third quarter (2020), users of Teams spent 30 billion minutes – an average of more than four hours per person – doing things like participating in video conferences, working on shared documents and reviewing meetings. Given how long it normally takes new enterprise software to take hold, that makes Teams virtually an overnight success, and an important new front door to digital working life.” 

Mr. Waters interviewed Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Mr. Nadella believes that Teams is an essential propeller for collaboration. In describing his views on the future of the workplace, Mr. Nardella said, “I think there will be structural change.” This change will highlight the need for software tools provide flexibility “… while still building social capital (and) building knowledge inside the enterprise by bringing people together on important tasks.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that the intense need for collaboration knocked down the barricades between CIOs (Chief Information Officer), their CIO teams and the brand-business’s other functions. The executive vice president and chief information officer at Charles Schwab Corp., the investment firm, told The Wall Street Journal, “As technology teams become more integrated into the business and develop deeper business knowledge and expertise… it leads to technology being at the table much more than in the past.”

Collaboration does exactly what Charles Schwab CIO talks about: having all parties at the table. Or, as writer (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Sometimes A Great Notion) and counterculture figure, Ken Kesey said about the merry pranksters and their psychedelic school bus, Further, “You’re either on the bus or off the bus.”

Sharing across function and geography promotes organizational learning. Shared learning generates new ideas and insights. Shared learning reduces redundancy of resources. Sharing creates internal alignment, leading to enterprise collaboration.

The coronavirus is forcing brand-businesses to make needed changes to the way people work together. One of the most important changes is the death of silos resulting in a new brand-business chapter of collaboration.