No Silos Please

grain silo

No Silos, if you please.

That’s not intended as a rip on our Midwest friends in the US farm belt and their grain storage strategy.  Rather, it’s a plea to everyone in every organization to use your feet rather than your hands, stop pointing fingers, and stand up and work TOGETHER to solve problems.  This is the way to be successful.

I’ve spent many years working for organizations of different sizes and with different purposes. I’ve seen it everywhere. People pointing fingers rather than joining hands, too quick with “It’s not my fault!” rather than “I messed up”, or at least “How can I help?”  It doesn’t stop there.  It’s not just shirking responsibility, it’s trying to push the blame to other departments or groups.

In a service business it’s Sales versus Operations.  In a manufacturing business it’s Production versus Sales.  I recall in the accounting world it was Tax versus Audit.   Throw the Finance, Billing and Procurement departments into the mix too, at times.  What do they all have in common when they’re NOT functioning well?

They’re operating and making decisions from “within a silo”, as it were.  What does this mean?

When a person or group is operating in a silo, the traditional meaning in organizational vernacular means something like, “groups/departments/business units not getting all the information they need to make decisions, operating without an understanding or appreciation for the bigger picture, etc.”

To my mind, being in a silo means people are choosing to play it safe rather than play together to make things better.

Jocko Willink and Leif Babin’s book, Extreme Ownership comes to mind.  To be successful in a team of any size, people need to take 100% personal responsibility for the decisions they make, the actions they take, the work they produce.   This maxim is true regardless of where you are in an organization, however big or (seemingly) small your role might be.

When we take ownership we move things forward rather than trying to pass the buck.  In fact, Harry Truman’s famous sign on his desk, “The Buck Stops Here”, is a spot-on parallel.

Sixty years later, another motto has been conceived borne from today’s times — “take extreme ownership” — but it means the same thing: Own it. Resolve not to make the same mistake twice. And work to make things better.

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