• Dr. Christine Senn, PhD

Eliminate Silos in the Workplace

Hello! Well, today is a super simple concept that is actually a little bit scary to some people, and it's this: Don't work in silos.

For some reason, there's a tendency to want to protect an area, a department, the work you do, whatever, and sometimes have the work filter through other people. I absolutely think that this is not the way to accomplish growth or success, either for the company or for you individually in your career. It is much more important to be transparent with information and free-flowing with ideas so that you always have the best ideas.

So, a silo might look like the people in this department always have to talk to their manager, and the manager talks to the other department, if at all. And sometimes the relationship between that department and the other department isn't going that well and things just don't get solved. This is terrible, as I just said, for company growth. It's also not good for your mental health if you're involved in such a situation because one of the things that makes people happiest at their jobs is a locus of control – feeling that they have a say in how things turn out. Now, we don't always get our way – that's not what this is about. And we don't always have the best idea. But that interdepartmental communication as well is very, very important.

So, an example might be that you might have a quality assurance department. If you had a situation where each individual contributor in the company had to go up to their manager, then their manager could filter something out, be too slow getting it done, or the person might not feel comfortable going to their manager. There could be any sundry reasons for why this process wouldn't work out. One of the things we do, because we use Microsoft Teams, is everything goes into a Teams channel, and that makes it so that everyone can see. So, we have a Quality Assurance Teams with a lot of channels in it. And someone posts their question immediately and anyone on the Quality Assurance Team can answer that question. So imagine that – you're getting a response right away, right, because someone's always at their computer available to look. You're not waiting on anyone, so it's much faster and sometimes the issue needs to be handled quickly. But also, if someone gives an opinion and there needs to be a little dialogue around it, that “Maybe that's not the best way to do something. Maybe we could do it this other way.”

You end up with such better solutions because you have many people looking at something like, “Oh, well that wasn't the best solution. Perhaps what could we do better!” And then you end up with something so much better. I think the most diverse group you can get looking at an issue brings you the most sustainable change and the most sustainable processes because they've been tested sort of by different minds.

The one part that's difficult that I was alluding to earlier is that people sometimes feel “called out” because an issue is out there in public. So let's say you asked me a question or you asked this department a question and I answer and someone else thinks that's not a very good answer. Now, I personally don't care. I don't expect to have great answers all the of time. And there can always be another viewpoint that builds on my idea or is a completely different idea. And that's fantastic! Your ego shouldn't be married to your ideas. They're just ideas – with the idea or the thought of “Let’s always try to make it better.”

So someone could say, “I don't really like that idea. What if tried this instead?” Great. Let's try that. Does that make sense to other people? Okay. If they prefer that idea, then that is what it is. That's wonderful! Really, why would you want the company to pursue an idea that wasn't as good as it could be? You're just going to have to redo it later. So I never have thought about it as being called out. It it's more like we're all in this together.

I was interviewing someone the other day, and what I said about the company was we don't have a thing where you need to stay in your own lane. Your lane is the company. Your lane is not your job description. Your lane is the company. Your job – no matter what else you do day-to-day – is to make your company be as successful as possible and to make yourself as successful as possible. And it's actually by getting other people's ideas that you are doing the most learning. You have the most potential for growth by hearing other ideas and not living in a silo.

Don't live in a silo. Break 'em down wherever you can, in whatever way you can. It shows you to be a great leader that way. Take care!




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