Updated: Sep 10, 2020

No doubt you’ve experienced ‘silos’ within your work environment? These silos are endemic to most organisations as individuals, teams, departments and business units ‘protect their patch’. This behaviour is generally not deliberately cynical or selfish, however, it creates resentment and dilutes organisational efficacy and value.

Why does it happen, and how can we minimise it in organisational culture and design?

Most commonly, individuals and departments ‘protect their patch’ due to a lack of understanding or exposure to the holistic whole of an organisation. This is further exacerbated by goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) assigned to individuals and departments that are not thoughtfully aligned to the organisation’s purpose and strategic imperatives. The goals are not shared.

As we believe our future prospects are determined by our current performance, we will do everything possible to meet our KPIs, with less focus on the performance of the organisation as a whole. Despite the individual, department and organisation not being mutually exclusive, they often function as if they are. The key influences behind this behaviour are a lack of awareness and the belief that ‘If I/we do well, and they do not, it makes me/us look better and more eligible for incentives and promotion’. This causes the silos that erode job satisfaction and trust between colleagues and customers.

We often can’t see beyond ourself and, generally unintentionally, this has us contributing to the shadow system of the organisation. The shadow system is a combination of the unseen, unspoken and un-dealt-with elements that we commonly refer to as office or organisational politics. Much of this shadow system is the result of two key elements:

A broad belief that the ‘leadership’ are solely responsible for the culture and direction of the organisation; as opposed to a shared responsibility for engagement and initiative; and,

‘Protecting our patch’ through a narrow focus on my/our KPIs and not the performance and wellbeing of the organisation holistically.

How then can we avoid this to make a meaningful contribution AND symbiotically achieve our personal goals and aspirations?

Let us move beyond service-of-self and contribute to something bigger than ourselves for the benefit of the entire organisation. As my perspective is an opinion, and multiple perspectives is awareness, let’s choose self-reflection versus self-protection.


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