Getting rid of Silo Mentality. Or what we can’t learn from Big Business


Move Beyond - Getting rid of Silo Mentality


Getting rid of Silo Mentality. Or what we can’t learn from Big Business


The ability to bring organizations together and promote partnership working is increasingly imported in the sport when there is an implied requirement to create change through sport. This change can only occur if and when partners are able to cross organizational boundaries to create effective, strategic partnerships and act as 'boundary spanners'. A 'boundary spanner' acts as an initial bridge between organizations. He or she has the job to create new strategic alliances.

Move Beyond - Getting rid of Silo Mentality

Shareholder value and selfishness

It's hard to find fans of Big Business nowadays. The general consent is that big corporations are destroying, exploiting, polluting, evading... more than adding to the well-being of the people or our planet. Should we blame them? Their primary purpose is to maximize shareholder value in the short term. Mostly through cost-cutting, under-investment and not compensating workers.

"The moral problem with shareholder value is that it seeks to legitimize institutionalized selfishness," an analyst on writes. "It encourages managers, boards of directors, shareholders and institutional investors to look after their own interests at the expense of everyone else."

Institutionalized selfishness is the failing of corporate culture. Working together becomes a competition. And competition does not work very well when you are planning to better the world.

Here at Demos, we have learned that Big Business is not privileged to ‘institutionalized selfishness'. It is not only ‘a thing' in large corporations. Basic- day to day- managerial practices also shares these characteristics. "What's in it for me?" is more than often the first question from the management and leadership.

Silo Mentality: Brent Gleeson style!

We believe institutionalized selfishness reduces cooperation. Instead, it creates a Silo Mentality. Silo mentality is Short-Term Thinking. It blocks out consequences and makes any project a tactical hell. You do not want to collaborate with someone who is stuck in a silo. And most of all: you don't want to be stuck in a silo yourself.

Silo mentality is an attitude that is found in some, not all, organizations or partnerships. It occurs when several departments, or groups within a project, do not share a unified vision. Collaborators in silo's do not share information or knowledge. There is miscommunication, a difference in expectations and a blurry relationship. Top that with low informational exchange and a competitive management style and you are in for negative consequences.

"Silos suck! Get rid of them." writes Brent Gleeson, keynote speaker and author of 'TakingPoint'. Gleeson approaches leadership, collaboration and communication in a decentralized manner.  "Many organizations struggle with their historical systems and structures not wanting to move away from them. Fearing the loss of control." To Gleeson, collaboration is the ability to align a team behind a unified vision. He drew his lessons from the military, the Navy SEAL teams.

Gleeson helped his platoon, troops and teams, allied across the globe, to work together towards a single mission. The traditional hierarchical structures were holding him back. He writes about a mindset that needs to shift when you work in cross-functional teams.

"It didn't happen overnight," he writes, "but when senior leaders (…) got behind this change effort, started demonstrating the new behaviours themselves and talked about the new vision every day; only then did the culture start to shift to align with the vision and strategy."

Here are 5 steps to encourage a unified front and open up the lines for communicating a powerful vision for change:

  1. Create a Unified Vision – Everybody has to row in the same direction. A common and unified vision is imperative. You will need a unified leadership team to encourage trust and create empowerment.
  2. Work Towards Achieving A Common Goal – Think holistic. Everything and everybody can make an impact. You need the big-picture view of the whole and work on the interconnections between parts of a system.
  3. Motivate and Incentivize – A wide variety of tactics can motivate people. Foremost: common interests and goals. But also, individual investment in growth, shared voice, and positive words of encouragement.
  4. Execute and Measure – Empowerment and accountability are key. Complete the common goal, benchmarks for success and delegate specific tasks and objectives.
  5. Collaborate and Create – It's hard to unite in a transformation effort. Encourages constructive feedback from outside. Work in small meeting rooms. Create new work patterns and break down the silos.