A question I always get asked is how to break the Silo Mentality and way of working in a business and there are many answers to this question, it’s not a one size fits all… There are different causes for different circumstances and there is no point in making assumptions and then tackling the wrong problem.

More often than not this requires a little big of digging and some good old fashioned problem solving. This is an interesting example based on an real problem with a client of mine.

Problem Solving the Silo Mentality

We conducted a formal problem solving exercise which involved mapping out the process and like most problems I see, there can be multiple root causes and this was a huge insight for the company going forward and it got them on a journey of paying more intention to

  1. Hiring the RIGHT people who would be a good fit for the business
  2. Then the process of improving them when they start working and ensuring they are as good as what you thought they were during the hiring process
  3. And finally discover their strength to ensure they are enjoying their role or could they actually be a good fit for another area of the business (or part of their role even)

So the problem started out as 1 problem, the silo mentality, but this is only the point of cause. Through the process we discovered multiple gaps in how they managed and lead their people…

With that we were able to improve multiple areas of the ‘People’ processes and in turn further mitigate the risk of the silo mentality..

Silo mentality is a constant battle, it can be a natural progression of many processes failing (that is many causes) however taking a systematic approach and identifying the key drivers for your business, you can hopefully solve multiple issues through one problem solving and improvement process. If I can use the snowball analogy, at the top of the mountain, the snowball is small, so in business one problem at the beginning of a process can be small too. However as the snowball rolls down the mountain it gains momentum and size, in business that snowball could mean one problem becomes many in different parts of your business too.

The point being here, always attack problems as soon as they enter your business so you prevent them from ‘snowballing’ all of your business!

Breaking the Silo Mentality Video Script

Hi, Shay here, Director of “Future State,” and today I wanna talk about one of the biggest issues I see in business today. And then with that, I wanna talk about how you can overcome this issue, how you can solve this problem, and then I’m gonna give you one example of where I’ve done it with a particular client of mine. So we talk about this silo mentality it happens so much in business, right? So where, where’s the root of the problem? How did this happen? How does this happen? And one of the major issues that everyone is so busy, no one has time to think about what they’re doing, so they’re just gonna continue to do things the way they’ve always done them. But that’s the point of cause, it is not the root. So how do I find the root of cause? Well, we do a process step map of where we think the point of cause was, and maybe a step after, and then we go all the way back to where we think it started. So we’re talking about a silent mentality we’re focusing on people, right? So we talk about like one process map that I’ve done with a particular client is going all the way back to the recruitment process, right? So, you spot a gap in your process. maybe somebody has left the business, or maybe something new is happening and you need to fulfill the role, right? So we look at the gap that you currently have, and then, and I’ll come back to this in a minute, but then we talk about well now you have to recruit, you have to get people in to fulfill that role. So then you have to define a profile for that role. Then you have to maybe go to whatever agencies and websites, job websites, and so forth, and that can be an extremely arduous, and painful, and expensive process. And then eventually going through all this, you hire someone, then you’re training them and then you can, great, I closed that gap, problem solved, okay, but it’s nothing. It’s only beginning because that’s the consistent process I see companies do all the time, man it’s, they leave it at that. And there are so many variables that can happen along this. As I said, you think you have a gap but have you really specified that this is the right gap. If we tweaked something in our business model, our operating model, could we close that gap? Could we use our team of people better? So that’s the first question I always ask, are you sure you’ve got the right guy? So we do someone else’s there. And then we talk about the recruitment process, this is a long process. Anyone who has done this knows what I’m talking about. And by the time you eventually hire, because you couldn’t get what you perceived as the best fit, you may have, having to take on your second best person. Now that maybe good or bad, we don’t know because the hiring process is to only what you think a person is ’cause you haven’t seen them in action. So, it’s a really difficult process to get right, regardless, then you hire, and then you may or may not train them. Some companies will train them and some people will, will go quite in-depth in training, for good or bad, are you training the right things? But the thing is then when they put people out in your big-bad world of business, you think that’s it, problem solved. But here’s the thing, you’ve only taught them the way to manage the process as you do it today. There has been learning here to improve so they’re just gonna fall into the previous role, or the person who did it, and do the same thing they’ve always done. So, you’re just getting the same out all the time. And as I keep saying, if you’re not moving forward, you’re going backwards. So this is part of the process, absolutely, but what do you do next? How do you ensure that you don’t have this silent mentality and how can you breed a collaborative mentality in people? Well first and foremost, you’ve hired someone on the basis that you think they’re a good fit, but are they, will they be, how do you measure how do you know? So you have to put something in place that you can measure this. You coach them, you groom them, and you keep in touch with them. So that’s the sort of code of hiring process, looking at their attitudes, and see are they a good fit for the job and make sure over time they are, that’s one part of it, but then, then if you really want to excel and continue to improve and prevent this silo mentality is then you need to discover who this person is. You’ve hired them on a, on a thought here, you think they’re okay, but you need to figure out are they okay, and if they are, great, that’s step one. Next step is who is this person? Are we using this person to the best of their ability? Are we putting them in strengths-based roles? Do we know their strengths? So how do we build a process in your business that we can learn about these people? How can we play to their strengths? How can we understand what their interests are so we can leverage them? You know, people are individuals we should be able to use them, whatever they, whatever they’re good at, whatever they like to do, because when you put people in strengths-based roles, they will excel. There’s a reason why they are good at stuff because they like to do them. Can we leverage that? If someone is good at risk, as I said, can we put that then in risk-based roles? If someone is good at problem solving can we use an element of their role to problem solve? Can we leverage and give them something back ’cause when you create that win-win between your needs, the business needs, and their needs, that’s when you will start to see the power of putting people in strengths-based role. And when you have happy people you’ve got performing people, and always think collaboration and make sure people are working together. So a big part of what I see is also management gaps, right? ‘Cause I wanna tell you a little story about one of my previous clients. It was in the food industry and I was in doing a specific problem-solving, and project in one of their key manufacturing areas. And when I do workshops I always try and figure out who are the people that are gonna help, maybe resist, or people who just don’t seem to care. ‘Cause I always try and see what are the different dynamics going on in the room? One particular person, let’s call her Mary, she wasn’t engaged at all and then when I met her during the break, I asked her, “What do you think of this process?” “Have you got any queries?” “Is there anything I can help you with?” And she said, “Look, there’s no point in doing this, ’cause we been here before.” “We’ve offered many great ideas to management, but management don’t listen so this is a waste of time.” I asked her to share some of her ideas with me. And when she told ’em to me, I discovered one of them had great potential so we talked about it and I asked her to discuss with management and I would support her. We then went on a data-gathering exercise to see if what she think would be good, would it makes sense? And it turned out it would, this saved millions a year. And the problem was that the management I discovered another problem here, which is again, systemic in more probably the larger companies, where middle management manages up and not manage down because there’s so many things to do, there’s no time, there’s always a lack of time. And in this case the management didn’t put time into their people, that big mistake. But we corrected it because once this improvement idea came to the surface, and then we implemented and we saw the benefit, then this person offered more ideas. This person over time, over a six-month period, went from someone who was coming into work, exchanging time for money and not caring about the business to someone who jumped out of bed, and I mean literally jumped, she loved her role because we made continuous improvement a part of her job. 20% of her time, and after a six-month period of working projects, she was allowed to spend on continuous improvement. So she, she was put in a role that played to her strengths, her problem solving way of working. And the company benefited out of that, there was the win-win. So this is what I’m talking about. You need to breed a process that goes way past this step here to see can you nurture, can you learn about what floats people’s boats in your business? How can you leverage what they’re really good at to support your business ’cause you will always find that people have great strengths you need to put them in roles to discover those strengths. You can never judge a fish on the ability to climb a tree. You need to find out where these people are best positioned. Yes, you may have brought them in to fill a gap in the beginning, but you gotta think a bigger, and a bigger approach, take analytics approach, now that we have that person how does the operation all work together? Will we, could we shake things up a little bit, move things around, to support the good of the process and the people and your customers. I hope this makes sense. There’s a lot to this, there’s a lot more I can go into this and I’m happy to share more ideas in the future, and in the meantime, this is Shay Lynch saying, thanks for listening.