Every time we talk about operationalizing whole lifecycle asset management there is a term that is constantly referred to – organizational silos.
It sounds like it is a common problem in many organizations when it comes to implementing a holistic asset management philosophy. So what are organizational silos? Are they really a problem? How do we overcome them?
In one of my previous blogs when I talked about theory of constraints I mentioned that ‘organizational silos’ is indeed a constraint. In my book I dedicated a full page (it should have been more, now that I think of it) on organizational silos.
So what are they and are they really that bad?
In many literature and articles there is mention of breaking down those silos or even of shattering them. But how do we do that and will that resolve the issue on hand?
Before talking about breaking silos down or shattering them, we should understand why they actually exist in the first place. They are obviously not a natural occurrence. They were created on purpose as a form of management style via organizational structures and specialized job designs to segregate the various governance mechanisms into functional enclaves, where technical specialist work independently of the other functions. However what ended up happening is that organizations get caught in a functional silo syndrome where there is a lack of mutual concern and cohesion. Individuals ingenuity is wasted, groups are not collaborating and there is no shared vision for people to rally around.
Gillian Tett put it brilliantly in her book, The Silo Effect:
“Silos can be useful but also dangerous. They have the power to collapse companies and destabilize financial markets, yet they still dominate the workplace. They blind and confuse us, often making modern institutions collectively act in risky, silly, and even stupid ways.”
The functional enclaves (e.g. finance, operations, maintenance, project management, marketing, etc.) should consider how the techniques that they develop within their own function might work together with the other functions. It would also be helpful if they consider how they jointly might be able to develop better ways to balance conflicting objectives to meet the organizational strategic goals.
Can you recognize the functional silo(s) in your organization?
Can you recognize the silo effects prevailing? Can you think of ways to overcome those silo effects?