DATE: April 12, 2010
FROM: Your Leader
RE: Organizational Realities
As your leader I’ve been noticing some things for quite awhile, and, after careful consideration, I want to share some of my observations with you.
I’m proud of how connected people feel to their teams here. I’m impressed with your pride and loyalty to your departments. I even appreciate the t-shirts that some of you have given me; making me, I suppose, an honorary member of your team.
There is no question that your camaraderie is a positive thing. I have seen you pitch in with each other to meet tough deadlines. I have noticed (and heard) your celebrations. I have heard of people taking on other people’s roles when a colleague had a sick child or parent and needed to be away from the office.
For all of these behaviors I am proud of you and want to congratulate you on creating an environment where these feelings and behaviors can flourish.
This isn’t the only reason for this memo however.
Like most great strengths that any of us possess there is a weakness close behind. It is perhaps because this is such a strength that you don’t notice or realize the harm you are also causing our organization as a whole.
Actually, in some ways you are actually damaging the organization.
As proud as you are of your team, you seem to be in competition with other departments, other divisions and other groups within the company.
This is where your team pride turns ugly: when you aren’t willing to move budget monies where they would better serve the whole organization because those funds belong to “your team”, or when you optimize your work and processes to make your work easiest and your productivity highest without regard for how it impacts others.
I grew up on a farm and have lived around silos – large structures designed to hold feed for livestock. These silos have defined boundaries – walls – that keep the feed in and allow that feed to become more palatable and effective in feeding the animals. These silos have a specific role and are highly effective.
In many ways your individual teams have become like these silos – highly effective inside your walls and boundaries. Within that narrow scope you are doing spectacular work. Unfortunately, it is because you have defined your boundaries incorrectly that we have the turf wars, infighting and sub-optimization we all feel every day.
Farmers know that one silo alone cannot provide everything the animals need. The same is true for us. If we want to be most successful, we must break down silo walls – the boundaries between us – and focus on our larger organizational goal, not just the goals of our department.
You’ve probably heard that before, either here or someplace else you have worked.
Rather than re-hash what you’ve heard at some seminar or seen on a PowerPoint deck, let me offer a couple of suggestions that you can apply today.
Focus: The best news here is that all of the strengths I talked about at the top of this memo – about how you care about, support and take pride in your team – are exactly the behaviors that will help us create and succeed in a world without silos. It will be the same behaviors, I’m just asking you to change the focus of your competition.
Your competitive nature has helped us become the organization that we are – please know that I want that fire and pride to remain. I just want you to realize the competition isn’t accounting, or the western region or the third shift, but rather our external competitors.
Perspective: I’m also asking you to change your perspective, from thinking of yourself working in manufacturing or marketing or the mailroom to realizing you work for our company.
You see, the reason I don’t wear any of those t-shirts you’ve given me isn’t because I don’t like t-shirts, but because they point to our biggest challenge. The day we all proudly wear shirts representing the company rather than our department will be an important day in the life of our organization. While it isn’t about the t-shirt, the shift in mindset will allow us to be more successful faster than you likely realize.
Move Your Walls: Lastly, understand, I’m not asking you to completely tear down the silos. What you are doing so well within your silos must be maintained, nurtured and further improved.
Instead, I’m asking you to move the walls, be more inclusive and create a new, larger, sturdier and more successful silo – the one we all work and play in together.
I hope this memo has made some sense.
And mostly I hope you understand how important this shift is for us. When we make this shift, we will change, in a positive way, the trajectory of this organization.
I look forward to living that ride with all of you.
Potential Pointer: Organizational silos are dangerous when there are too many. As a leader help people build boundaries in the right places and create the correct alliances and interdependences to achieve the organizational goals you have set. You are aiming for one complete organization, in one massive structure, working together towards a common goal. When you harness competitive spirit and inclusive behaviors into a collective direction, miracles can occur.
Leaders must reduce the impact of divisions and departmental silos. Remarkable leaders realize this is one of many skills they must master to be successful. To build those skills many leaders around the world are continually improving as a Member of The Remarkable Leadership Learning System – a one skill at a time, one month at a time approach to becoming a more confident and successful leader. Get $748.25 worth of leadership development materials including two complimentary months of that unique system as part of Kevin Eikenberry’s Most Remarkable Free Leadership Gift Ever today.