Why Silos At Your Company Are Just As Deadly As Grain & Missile Silos

I’ve been around the block a few times :).

I’ve worked at:

  • Boeing Co.
  • NEi Software
  • ACS Consulting (Neil Patel)
  • Kissmetrics
  • My Own Business

I’ve also consulted for dozens companies and have seen the intricate details of their daily operations.

Now, I want to solve what I think is one of the biggest problems of running a company. At least, it’s the problem that seems to bother me the most.

I spend a lot of time thinking about this problem. To me, if you can get this one right, your company might just be able to run itself…toward success. I think of it as the ultimate turnkey solution.

Siloing = Death

Peacekeeper_in_silo_1987

Just as this nuclear missile represents death, so does siloing inside companies

Siloing is when each one of your individual departments works in a silo. What’s a silo? A silo can be either a large cylindrical vessel to store grains, or a deep cylindrical hole in the ground to store intercontinental ballistic missiles. The point is that your departments are working in these closed containers and not really communicating consciously with the rest of the company.

And if I had to guess, the common causes of siloing are:

  • Business as usual. People get to work, rush in the door, sit down and…well…get to work. Nose to the grindstone. If they don’t pop their heads up once in a while and ask, “Wait, why am I doing this? Can I do this better? Should I talk to someone?” – then you have a problem. As you grow a company, the course is always changing and iterating toward a better overall solution (hopefully). If your employees aren’t instigating that change or a part of it, you might be locked on a railroad track to nowhere.
  • Cross-departmental beefs. This is devastating. When heads of departments don’t get along, they might self-sabotage for their egos or silliness. What’s worse is they might influence their team to not like the other team or the other team’s head. I always say that you want communists working at your company :). My analogy is this: You want people who are loyal to the state only, not to themselves (“the state” being your company). You shouldn’t hire people who always do things to satisfy their egos (Hint: Watch out for “rock stars“). If your employees are always thinking about how to improve your company and not their own position, you’ll have amazing people growing the company the way it should grow.
  • Remote working. I’m actually a supporter of remote working, if it’s done right. But often, members of remote teams rarely communicate with each other, let alone the rest of the company. You really have to work hard to design a communication process to make sure remote teams are fully aware of the company goal path. They should be mixing it up with people in all departments on a regular basis.

A Collective Company Consciousness = Growth

The ideal state is to have everyone in the company fully aware of what everyone else does, what everyone is working on, AND what the current company goal is. BUT, that’s pretty hard to do. The goal is try to get the entire company constantly moving in this direction. That’s your job as a company leader.

Here are a few of the great things that will happen as a result:

  • People will identify and solve problems before they become problems.
  • People won’t work on tasks and projects that are not a priority or relevant. This is a huge benefit! Many people will avoid priorities to work on things they like to do or that are easy to knock out.
  • People who know what the goal is can supply ideas, strategies, and ammo to get there! No one person is as smart as all of us. So, use all the brains at your disposal! If it’s just up to department heads and executives, then you’re leaving out a lot of brain power. Use the force you’re paying for!

The Exercise You Can Try Today

If you’re running a small enough company and everyone is present, you can try this today:

  1. Get everyone in the biggest room you have access to.
  2. Put each team in one corner of your room. If you have more than four teams, then group ’em the best way you can.
  3. Grab a marketer and pair them with a developer. Turn to the developer and say, “Do you know what he/she is marketing?” Next, turn to the marketer and say, “Do you know what he/she is building? Now, you two go outside and talk about what you’re working on.”
  4. Repeat this with everyone in the room and mix it up. Pair support people with sales people, marketers with sales people, sales people with developers etc.
  5. Next, listen in on some of the conversations between team members. Is everyone on the same page? Are you shocked to hear what people think they should be working on?
  6. When everyone is done, bring them all back into the room and find out if the entire team knows what the current goal of your company is.

This is a good exercise to repeat every quarter. If you find that you’re having problems with company alignment, then I strongly suggest you watch this webinar:

If you’re still wondering why grain silos are deadly:

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