How you can break down organizational silos

Eliminating Silos

In organizations of all sizes we see silos, lack of collaboration, in-fighting  and much worse – all to the detriment of the customer and the business. Why does this happen? In part it comes from the fact that people in organizations have different backgrounds, experience, social styles and training in different disciplines. It exists most strongly when the organization does not have a cultural focus on customers. Without a compelling external focus, fiefdoms and silos crop up everywhere making the execution of strategy painful and stressful.

Take the “fighting” that often goes on between marketing and finance in a business. This occurs when focus on the marketing and accounting disciplines over-shadows the focus on customer value. It is typified by the following fable.

The marketer decided to take the afternoon off (doesn’t that happen all the time says the accountant) and go for a ride in a hot air balloon. He took off in the balloon just north of San Francisco, but suddenly a strong southerly wind pushed the balloon rapidly towards the Napa Valley. Feeling disoriented he decided it was time to bring the balloon down and he managed to land it in a vineyard.

A bit shaken, he got out and saw a stranger walking in the vineyard and called out:

“Can you tell me where I am?”

“Yes”, said the stranger, “You are in the center of a vineyard!”

“That’s interesting”, said the marketer, “You must be an accountant”

The stranger replied: “As a matter of fact I am, how do you know?”

“You have given me absolutely precise information of no value whatsoever!”

The accountant replied: “You must be a marketer”

The marketer replied: “As a matter of fact I am, how do you know?”

“You don’t know where you are and you won’t accept the facts!”

The way to solve these different views of the world is to make the customer the focus of attention. Then the questions asked by both accountant and marketer become:

What value do we need to give customers so that we satisfy and retain them and make them advocates? Retained loyal customers are much more profitable and create new customers much more than casual customers who buy only on price.

How much investment is needed to provide that value and customer experience (in terms of product, service, information etc.) and what is the likely return on investment?

How can we work together to ensure that the new product will reach the market as planned so that we can enhance value for customers and return sales and profits?

While working on answers to questions like these can bring accountants and marketers together, similar questions can be used to connect sales and marketing,  and operations with customer service etc. The common factor is the culture that focuses on customers, customer experience and delivery of value by all functions of the business. When this happens we start breaking down organizational silos and progressively develop strong cross-functional professional relationships with a shared sense of purpose and a common cause.

What are you doing to bridge the gaps between functions in your company?

One response to “How you can break down organizational silos

  1. Hi Chris; here’s my blog comment: Very timely; I recently witnessed an incident where members of an organization became resentful of the customer stemming from a minor interruption. I don’t think the unfortunate incident would have occurred had we been focused and dedicated to the customer instead of reacting with an internally protective attitude. Thank you.