Three Tips to Avoid Silos

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Silos can form in your organization where there is unintended competition or rivalries between departments, production teams, locations and shifts. Think of a grain silo sitting outside a barn in the country. The function of the silo is to separate and protect the good contents on the inside and keep away anything bad on the outside.

To illustrate silo behavior, here’s a story about two friends who headed out hunting together. As they go through the bush to set up for the hunt, they come across a bear. One of the guys immediately starts to panic, while his friend calmly unzips his backpack, takes out his running shoes and starts lacing them up. The friend says “You can’t outrun that bear!” and the other guy replies “I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you.”

It can be the same in the daily production meeting if the day shift can out-produce the night shift, the “bear” will eat the other supervisor. Or, the production manager will scold one supervisor while praising the other. Many managers and front line leaders believe that internal competition and rivalry will boost performance when in fact the opposite is true. Silos tend to drag down the overall performance because each person is doing only what helps their own department and not what will help the business as a whole.

In the production meeting of one of our clients, they compared the production of the day shift and the night shift. This created an “us” versus “them” mentality. When the day shift numbers were better than the night shift, day shift workers would receive praise and the night shift workers would be scolded. Then the next day, the situation could be reversed.

The manager finally realized that the shifts would sabotage one another by running easier jobs, depleting the inventory, delaying a product changeover or leaving the department messy and disorganized. Here are three tips for reducing the silos in your organization:

# 1 Stop being negative about other departments, shifts or locations.

Every time you as the leader put down another department or shift, it builds another brick in the wall of the silo. Soon, your team members will pick up on your negativity. If there are problems with another department, they should be addressed and resolved, but stop contributing any negative comments. Your team will see that you don’t throw other departments under the bus and they’ll be less negative too.

#2 Use metrics and score keeping for collaboration, not for competition.

When you measure the output of two different shifts, locations or even employees and you don’t explain the context of your measurement, your team will substitute a sports context and assume it’s a competition between rivals. Instead, the manager or the leader should use the data to understand how to support increased performance across all the teams. Instead of competition, focus on achievement. Make supportive comments about other departments, shifts or work groups. Show how each department or shift can maximize their performance against their potential.

# 3 Use Hat One thinking.

The only check that matters is the one that the customer writes after being invoiced for the quality products or services that your company provides. Therefore, every department in the value chain needs to be focused on the overall success of the business, not by their individual numbers. By doing what is right for the customer and not just for your department, you’ll be contributing to the overall success of the company.

It’s natural for leaders to believe that competition will drive up performance and it might for a few workers. Most employees, however, would prefer to achieve success together rather than being pitted against each other. To continue your growth as a leader, you are invited to check out our books, videos and training workshops and join our Facebook community

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