Leading Systemic Dialogue: From Silos to the Whole System

Sarah Rozenthuler, Edward L. Rowland
2015 Coaching Review  
This article explores how a global team successfully transitioned from the trap of operating in separate units (or "silos") to working as a unified whole. To overcome duplication of work, mistakes going undetected and festering frustrations, this team engaged in a different kind of conversation. Their dialogue enabled them to see the bigger picture and improve their ability to execute their global operations more seamlessly. The limitations of silo working are becoming increasingly apparent.
more » ... singly apparent. Many of us have experienced the frustration of working in organisations where rivalry between departments undermines collective performance, infighting between divisions creates unhealthy in-house competition and lack of communication causes blindspots that could have been avoided. Gillian Tett, a writer at the "Financial Times", has recently published her new book The Silo Effect. By looking at the root cause of great financial crisis in 2008, she explores both the upside and downside of silo-isation. Division of labour, the hallmark of our market economy, has led to benefits, at least in the short-term. Tett highlights how highly structured Sony, for example, in the 1970s, was a leading light for innovation with its Walkman and Trinitron TV. Specialization can, at times, lead to improve efficiency, increase profits and generate a greater sense of control. Silo-working has, however, now become so taken-for-granted that we may miss seeing its dark side. As we become buried in our corner of the organization or immersed in our specialism, we are more likely to develop tunnel vision. Dividing an organization, and its people, into "departments", "divisions" and "units" (the language itself is revelatory) has the unintended impact of stopping collaboration in its tracks. Despite our interconnectedness -news can flash across the planet at lightening speed -our lives and organisations are "crazily fragmented", according to Tett.
doi:10.7206/cr.2081-7029.30 fatcat:q3qntlfvkrcddhwcsocaemnpau