Before I begin, here’s a disclaimer, it is perfectly legitimate, at this point in history, for people to ask “What’s in it for me?”. Thinking through this question is absolutely necessary for any organization in the midst of change. How this question is dealt with will make or break you. Yesterday, I wrote about my early experience in working through change at Best Buy. Today, I want to talk about what happens when the various entities within an organization “silo”.
Technically speaking, a “silo” is a system that is incapable of reciprocal operation with other systems within a related, yet larger, system. Rather than a “systems thinking” approach, in which there is reciprocity (communication, commonality, collaboration, etc), “siloing” leads to a “to each his own” mentality. Essentially, the individual sums are not only greater than the whole, but some of the sums are greater than others. Why might silos form?
- A system may not feel like they are part of the whole, in vision, in respect, in trust. “What do you do in the cash office all day?”
- A system may not feel that the other entities understand what their role is. “Don’t they know how hard it is to unload a truck?”
- A system may feel that their entity is more important than the others. “Don’t they know what would happen if sales stopped selling?”
- One system may be compensated or celebrated over the others. “Why do we always have sales contests on the weekend?”
- A system may feel that it is unsupported by the other systems, so it will focus on itself. “Screw them. They don’t want to help me, so I will just focus on what I do best…Operations.”
As I went through various assistant manager positions, I was great at building silos. When I was an inventory manager, I had a top notch inventory staff and we counted and checked stuff that we were not supposed to. Even though our distribution centers were “90+% accurate” there were times that we detail counted trucks as we unloaded them. We went out to the floor and cycle counted everything. And, we reduced shrink from one inventory period to the next by 95%…the best reduction in company history at that time. But I couldn’t run the sales floor to save my life. Counting skus was WAAAYYY more important than sales. When I switched to operations (front end), I built a team that was 100% committed to having the best operations team in our region. We were the tops in all measurables, replacement plans sales, credit card conversions, you name it. But when someone had a question from another department, I did my best to avoid them.
Something funny happened on my path to GM. I was asked how I was benefiting the rest of the store. It was great that I was making a name for myself, but all people wanted to talk about in interviews was how I helped sales, how I helped merchandising, how I was helping the store. Then, when I made GM, I failed because I had no clue how to build a team that was bigger than me. It was only after I was demoted from GM and went to another store, did I work under an excellent store manager who taught me about the bigger picture.
I had to learn that a win for operations might be shallow if our merchandising team failed. We would have nothing to sell if inventory did not receive product correctly. Practically speaking, the equation was not 25 + 25 + 25 +25 = 100. There are indeed differences in roles and functions. But, the various entities are interdependent and inter-related. Even if they were 91 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 100, the 100 is still greater than 91. 91 does not get there without the “3’s”.
Tomorrow: “What’s in it for me?”- part 3, silos and the church