Monday, January 21, 2013

Analyzing Organizational Culture - Part 3 - Silos

‘Culture isn’t just one aspect of the game, it is the game. In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.’

Lou Gerstner (Former CEO of IBM)
In this blog, and a few that follow, we're focused on analyzing organizational culture as "the way we get things done around here." 
Travel through any of a thousand farming towns and you will see a landscape filled with silos.  Silos are helpful, meaningful and valuable tools for farming.  They retain a supply of food for livestock throughout harsh winters.   Without a doubt, they serve a crucial purpose in agriculture.
Silos also exist metaphorically in business.  Teams or departments or groups retain precious data, process, even historical knowledge that can benefit others.  But like the farming silo, contents are distributed by someone willing to share and provide.

When we analyze culture using this metaphor, we ask some very direct questions:

  1. How do teams share information?
  2. How are teams and key individuals included in critical decisions?
  3. How do managers and leaders demonstrate collaboration?
The barriers to collaboration are manifold:

  1. Those who have information may believe the old saw: 'possession is nine tenths of the law'.
  2. Some may wish to retain information with the false belief that special knowledge will help them stay employed during tough times.
  3. Sometimes people simply don't know why they need to collaborate.
  4. Reward systems may actually perpetuate silos. 
While there are multiple other barriers to collaboration, an organization with limited collaboration is impacted in the following ways:

  1. Speed of decision making is slowed, sometimes halted.
  2. Solutions to problems may be incomplete, causing rework in the months and years ahead.
  3. There remains a sense of Organizational Uncertainty which leads to lower productivity.
  4. Decreased productivity and ineffective decision making ultimately lead to decreased financial performance. 
There are many ways to analyze culture.  At Pro/Axios, we take a direct approach to helping people work together for the benefit of the entire organization.   How do things get done around here?


  1. "Pockets of people wrapped up in their own success that they miss the point… departments that are draconian and people miss the point… people need to understand where we all fit, and see more collaboration and less siloed thinking."

  2. In my business, life is siloing. everybody protects their little knowledge portion. In fact often time disinformation is propagated. It's as if, if you know what I know my power and thus job security is diminished. So when leaders call for a voluntary methods sharing guessed it, three people show up. If Pro Axios can figure a way to reduce fear and increase collaboration you're really onto something!