Where does the “silo” idea come from? Well, as I understand it, if a manager considers the intrinsic functions of a department as the chief value and aim of that department, he or she is demonstrating “silo thinking”. He or she has lost site of the structure and goals of the organization as whole.
This mindset tends to lead managers to structure and run departments within an organization in a way that protects and maintains growth within that department, possibly to the detriment of the organization as a whole.
The implications are intuitive enough. Communication and collaboration tends to suffer. Sharing resources is precluded by self-interests and pet projects. Even if the silo mentality helps bottom line to some extent in the short-term, it is likely to derail success in reaching long-term organizational goals.
All of this sounds like a round about way of describing selfishness in a business context. Not only selfishness, but a philosophy that assumes a lot about the baseness of human nature.
Ayn Rand praised the virtue of selfishness; but I’m just not convinced – on a personal or professional level. There’s too much evidence to suggest that selfishness is not the only thing that motivates people and makes them happy or successful.
We actually derive enjoyment from playing a part on team that is bigger than us and working towards a bigger purpose. This enjoyment translates into motivation, which translates into loyal, honest, smart, and hard work. I recommend Daniel Pink’s recent release, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us for more reading on this subject.
I recognize, however, that if a work environment does not protect the psychological possibility of being part of the broader success of the company, Managers will become self-interested in protecting their department and his or her employees are more likely to become focused on their own personal achievement.
Some see this as evidence of our inevitable selfishness. But I don’t see it that way. I think our attitudes and behavior are strongly afftected by our environment, and if a work environment exudes apathy and self-interest, people will absorb it.
Alternatively, a positive, collaborative company brand will affect workers for the better. I’ve seen this on sports teams, project teams, in families, groups of friends and nearly every social structure I can imagine.
What am I saying? Well, I suppose I’m just trying to point out an observation: humans aren’t necessarily motivated by self-interest. I think that this feature of human psychology entails that silo-based organizations are bound to fail and miss out on a vital resource that could help their company succeed in the long term: the dedication of the human spirit.
While a blog entry just isn’t the place to exhaustively cover, well, any single subject (except, perhaps, a blog about Lindsay Lohan or something roughly equivalent in nature), I hope to have presented some plausible claims worth exploring for yourself in your work.