ArLyne's Diamonds

A running commentary of ideas

Friday, April 15, 2016

Silos Destroy Internal Communication and Customer Service

I'm currently working with two clients who share the same set of problems, although on the surface they are very different. One is a large agency and most of the people are in buildings on the same campus, with a few outliers. The other is a small organization whose members live and work all over the country and they have almost no face-to-face interaction with each other. In this second case - there is no there.
The problems: There are silos. Each department seems to work independently of the other with no - or little - comprehension about the way their work impacts that of others internally. Members of these groups work hard - but consider their work done without regard for their need to interface with other departments. The overlap is missing.
Unfortunately, because of being locked into this narrow view of their work, people fail to recognize the importance of internal customer service. Too, working in silos is akin to working with blinders on and departmental managers don't share a common vision and mission.
Remember the story of the Harvard Crew Team vs. the Japanese Crew Team? (for those that don't know - crew is rowing.)
The story is that these teams were competing on the Charles River. (I've been there!) The Harvard team were big burly guys at least 6 feet tall and in comparison the Japanese team consisted of members much shorter, seemingly weaker an d slighter of build. The bets were all on the Harvard Team winning. Much to the surprise of the observers, the Japanese team won.
Why: The Japanese team had one leader and 11 rowers. The Harvard team had 11 leaders and one rower.
In other words, everyone was doing his own thing on the Harvard team and the Japanese team members were all pulling together in unison.
The other lesson of course is that the Japanese team had a clear leader who was able to set and maintain the necessary rhythm. His leadership was not from a distance - but was directly involved with the task at hand and face-to-face.

My push for both organizations: Face-to-face meetings that enable people to learn about each other's jobs an needs as well as to get a personal sense of each other. I am also emphasizing the importance of making sure the vision/mission developed by the CEOs trickles down properly in the rest of the organization. Because, of course, there are more than 12 members in the boat.

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