In Silos or a Rising Tide

Does your company have a silo effect?

My last post was about being aware of the relationships and politics of the office. This is to address not caving in and not pursuing what is best for the company, but finding a strategy to make great communication take place.

When a company functions as if each department is separate then you get the silo effect.

While I worked for Georgia Tech I saw this more than anywhere I had been before.  Since I worked in communications, my role had me moving from one department to another.  In the span of a week I photographed three different research projects on the campus and all three of them were solving the problem of epilepsy.

What was strange was that none of these departments knew about each other and even after I told them about each others projects they still didn’t interact together.

It was also at Georgia Tech where I saw the silos starting to be dismantled.  When they built the new Bioengineering building they had open labs next to each other.  This was to encourage people to talk to each other and collaborate more.

I enjoyed playing pickup basketball at Georgia Tech.  I played with students, alumni, faculty and staff.  While waiting between games we had time to talk to each other.  Two professors I played ball with talked one day together about their work.  Dr. William Hunt, Professor Bioengineering, and Microelectronics/Microsystems talked with Dr Roger Wartell about a problem. 

At the end of that conversation Dr. Hunt had a major breakthrough in his research. I too had a conversation later with Dr. Hunt about his work and he had a breakthrough, but struggled to get funding.  I asked if he would let me take a look at a way to visually communicate the concept.  After I helped him with some photos of his work he presented his work to a conference.

Very similar presentation to what he had been doing, but now new images.  He had one of the branches of the military come up after that talk and give him a $500,000 grant.  He sent a letter to the president of Georgia Tech telling him how I had helped him.  I was thrilled for him and I.

Toyota can tell you about how one part just about brought down their company in 2009.  It started as what was thought to be floor mats and then it came out they knew they had a faulty accelerator design.  This was an example of silo that just about took down the company.  It is still dealing with the bad PR this gave the company.

You need quality process in place for the whole company and not just parts of it.  You need to address these issues:

    •    A defined end goal
    •    Work done right the first time
    •    Individual responsibility for quality
    •    Verification, not inspection–quality processes focus on the on-going verification of quality achievement and not only inspection at the end
    •    Long-term focus
    •    Improved quality results in lower costs

If a company puts equal quality standards for their communication as they do in their product then it will lift up all the departments and in the end the customer gets a better product and experience.  This makes all those involved walking taller and prouder about what they are apart.

You see a rising tide lifts all boats.

A rising tide lifts all boats