Friday, September 23, 2016

horizontal silos

Those who have followed my regular blogs know how much I detest silos within an organization, and I will do everything I can to bust those silos.  I also know that silos are a natural part of most organizations, and that people have to work hard to keep tearing them down AND to use them when necessary.  Earlier this week, a colleague of mine described what we believe may be horizontal silos in our organization, where the communication breaks down not between functional areas (marketing, admissions, academics, etc) but more between working layers (another term I would rather not have to live with) such as executives, leadership teams, staff and faculty.  Just as with vertical silos, no one sets out to create these...they tend to happen over time for many different reasons.  So what can leaders do to help blow up horizontal silos?  Here are a few thoughts:

  • set up systems and tools that can provide proper and timely communication among the layers
  • have those who serve in the different layers rub shoulders with those in other layers - sometimes just hanging out with others provides new perspectives
  • train those who serve in different layers how to do their work in a way that is collaborative among the layers
  • remind those who work in the layers that their work goes two ways - and that their ability to communicate in both directions is critical to breaking down the horizontal silos
  • strengthen the layers - find and train the best people to work in them
  • consistently remind the layers that everyone is working in the same direction...and that each layer has different roles in and responsibilities towards the organization
  • get very clear about the expectations of each of the layers, ensuring that each layer has an accountability structure for their work
  • be a place of forgiveness - any type of silo work, whether it be vertical or horizontal, will end up with people stepping on each others toes.  Be able to say "I'm sorry" and "I forgive you"
  • acknowledge throughout the organization that horizontal silos will occur and need to be addressed over and over again.  Silos by themselves are not inherently bad...they just tend to cause bad behavior

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