Silos

 

The Power of Habits

 

Lesson Info

Silos

So let's imagine we we do all of these things we we do what we need to do to build this kind of a neighborhood eventually neighborhoods do fail and largely they fail when organizations get too big and you can actually see this in lots of different sociological exploration. So for example, if you think not about companies for a moment but about, uh, utopian communities, communes and things like that over the years there have been lots and lots of different attempts to create perfect societies, because as long as there's been work and life, there have been people who've been stressed out about work life balance that's not a new problem. As it turns out, um, in fact, the book utopia, which was written in fifteen sixteen, um is, which is a while ago, um that's a that's a book that's really all about how work it work is life is really stressful. Work takes too much time, people are overworked and underpaid. Wouldn't it be nice if we had a society that did a better job of balancing? That sou...

nds awfully familiar when you when you put it that way, right? So this is not a new a new set of problems that we're dealing with when people create these, so sometimes people create these utopian communities, and the idea is, you know what we're all going we're all going to take care of each other we're gonna we're gonna cook our own food we're going we're going we're gonna grow some of our food we're gonna we're gonna have make cem cem stuff that's going to allow us to make some money for the community and we're just all gonna do stuff you know it's going to be beautiful and it is beautiful for a while and what happens is it so beautiful other people show up and then other people show up at some point you get about one hundred people in the community and then things start to fall apart and the reason is that when you're under about a hundred people everybody knows everybody they greet each other, they have conversations they know what's going on in people's lives there's a there's a certain amount of really good social interaction that happens that that engages with people there's also social pressure right it's very hard to loaf when everybody knows you right because they know they know that you know they call you out on it, right? You know dude get to work right? So there aren't opportunities for what are called free riders people who are just, you know, just living off the benefits of being there without actually contributing to it once you get more than one hundred people in these communities, things start to fall apart because now everyone doesn't know everybody else anymore now there are there are factions that get created because there isn't a single coherent community you have to create some market transactions right in order to manage an economy within the organization you get maur free riders, you get opportunities for people to loaf because the power of social pressure isn't it's strong and ultimately in any social structure and businesses included you end up getting what are called silos right? Silos are are essentially these units within organizations that don't really communicate that well across the units they communicate well within those units now almost no matter what kind of a community that we belong to okay, there are silos that are part of our community, okay? There are some people that is easy for us to talk to other people where it's hard for us to get them and that restricts the flow of information it restricts our ability to work effectively so one of the things I'd like to do is for everybody to take just a couple of minutes and think about your world and it could be the world you're in right now it could be a world you were in a year ago whatever is most effective and think about it where where are some of the silos what you know what? What are some of the things that have constrained your ability to reach beyond ah particular local community I want to just think about what some of these social relationships are on while you're doing that, I'll see if anything's come in that week, sure, but we have a lot of people talking about the sense of community in the workplace, and this question came from fella, and they say, I hear people talk about hating their job all the time. Now it seems likely that's, because there isn't a sense of neighborhood in their company and in their business and, you know, you mentioned costco is one example, but a lot of these companies now are kind of promoting the sense of community within their office space, I guess. Can you explain a little bit more about that? Why has that become so important for these companies right now? Yeah, so, you know, I think one of the things that's really interesting is people have begun to recognize that that what makes people want to work for a place isn't the isn't what you're paying them, right, right? And it it isn't really what you make that is that is what the product is that if you're gonna I mean, look, you spend somewhere between a third and a half of your day during the work week, which averages out to about forty five percent of your awake time during the week, okay at work. Uh that's an awful lot of time if you don't enjoy that time if you don't feel engaged with people that you're working within that time then it's extraordinarily unpleasant right it's just it makes it so that you know it's hard to get out of bed in the morning if you don't want to deal with any of these people and I think companies have begun to realize it's not about profit you know it's not you don't it's not about profit it's not about what you make it's about creating environments in which people want to be engaged and because we are social species the way we want to be engaged is by being engaged with other people from the chat room actually just used the phrase treating employees as assets as opposed to tools yeah that's really what I think people are looking for yeah yeah people people want to recognize that there contribution is valued and that's part of that notion of authenticity right is that the organization shouldn't be just crumpling people up and throwing them away the people are not tools right when a tool becomes obsolete you get rid of it yeah right but we're not we're not tools we are we are part of a broader community and and that feeling of community is something that's really deeply ingrained in us and I think that the companies that are great places to work the companies that have really figured that out you know that we do have some people out there who are looking for jobs that people here in our studio audience you've been talking about that how do people know about that sort of cultural fit and that culture within ah neighborhood community of a business sometimes it's evident other times you may not know about it until it's too late yeah, I know it can be hard and you know, one of the things about companies that have good neighborhoods is that they're generally speaking not shy about showing that off, right, right? So one of the things that I often recommend that people do when they're looking at a company is toe have the opportunity to meet some of the other employees, right? And, uh, you know, if a company doesn't really want you to talk too much with other people who worked there that's kind of a warning son, you know, but also when you do meet people who work there, you have to really listen to what it is that they talk about as the advantages of working there, right? If people focus primarily on the incentive program you know, or or wow, you know, this place is great benefits, you know, I don't know, I mean, benefits are awesome, I love health care and you know, I do, but but really, you know, uh on your day to day work life it's it's about the people that you're working with it's about that sense of connection to the workplace and that's what you're listening for you know our people talking about how much they enjoy working with other people are they talking about how much they learned from being on the job do they talk about the way that the company's supports their growth when they when people talk about a company supporting their growth is an individual within that company? What they're saying is that this company has created an environment in which I am a person who is who is growing and not just someone who's been slotted into a particular job those are the kinds of things you want to hear in the process of finding out about companies to really feel like like the company has created something that that is nurturing the uh the neighborhood so what have you guys got in terms of thinking about the way that silos might get created you think yeah uh at my previous job it was sort of my rule actually to get different groups to communicate with each other um and for the most part I think that they did and one of the ways that the each little group was organizes that they had people of different skill sets different functions within a small group so it wasn't just all electrical engineers you had a manufacturing engineer but the a group that I think was sort of often a silo where those that were creating initiatives that then we're going to sort of be brought down on all of the other teams and so I think often um a lot of teams didn't think that they had any buy in and let a lot of that a lot of the new initiatives were being forced upon them that didn't make sense to them so that that's where I saw silo and it's interesting isn't it right? I mean you have somebody who's who's whose task is to influence the behavior of everybody else in the organization and so that's the group is disconnected from everybody else you know that's where you get that big brother feel you know attention you know I mean yeah so that's great. I like that I like that it's a great example. Yeah. You know, I think about in the restaurant industry this is pretty common where you have called back of house in front of house. So hospitality servers vs kitchen and often times because they have very different goals one just trying to manage getting food out while the others just trying to make the customer happy and sometimes those conflict and also often times it's only the top is a lot to talk to the top and we have a real disconnect between people who were kind of on the bottom the bottom rungs interesting yeah so so you have any examples of how that you mean what kind of problems does that end up causing what kind of promise? So for example I worked in a place where the kitchen can on ly get out like one pizza every ten minutes and yet the it's actually time might be a little does a little different but so the hospital he wants to be able to give as many pieces as possible they don't want to say no to the customer that we can't do the pizzas on time but the kitchen is saying, well, why didn't you be more clear your you know, really stressing us out take out the mortars s o they say you have these conflicting goals and there isn't really a good way of resolving right interesting cool any other any other examples of some songs yeah, I mean, so these things these things come up all over the place, these kinds of silos and so then the question becomes what do we do right? How do we how do you fix that? How do we create structures to to create mohr information flow when you're in an environment that gets larger and it turns out that that you can do this and we've been studying this actually for the last few years and we've been studying this not in the context of a single organization but actually in the context of a community so as I said I'm from austin, texas and austin is a is definitely ah hi tech hub I feel you know scared saying that when I'm in, you know, in san francisco and you know it in the sort of silicon valley region but austin you know, has got its own thing going and and it's it's definitely a place in which a lot of companies try to start up and there's there is an entire ecosystem that has grown up in the austin area that relates to the development of new businesses in austin and so now we have a situation not of a single organization but of lots of different organizations that are trying to grow a tte the same time. And so one of the things that we did was actually to, um to begin to study some of the business incubators in town to try to understand how it is that they promote the development of some of these new company. And it turns out that for example the austin technology incubator which has formed in nineteen, eighty nine and is designed to help these high tech startup firms get their first round of funding in the hope of ultimately, you know, making it big the austin technology incubator succeeds wildly itt's help you know numerous companies toe to grow, but the way that it succeeds is that it creates what we think of as a coral reef okay, so what it does is it creates a structure that in part protects some of these new companies but largely it creates an environment in which the various actors who need to help companies to thrive come more or less swimming around in what seemed like haphazard ways in order to support the development of these these new companies. So these thes people can you know the people comes swimming around or people like investors, venture capitalists, angel investors, technology professionals, people who had started other companies, people who want to give back to the community and want to give advice people with technology expertise, faculty and students at the university you want to help out with some of these companies. And so what happens is the austin technology incubator creates various events for example there directors go and hang out in coffee shops and let people know I'm going to be a tte this coffee shop from ten to two today come on by and then what happens is people know the director is going to be there so they walk on in and they end up chatting with the director and meeting people from some of these other companies and having these interesting discussions and so each of these these little interactions add some value and these seemingly haphazard interactions ultimately create relationships that helped these companies to develop and that structure is one that works not just for developing communities of entrepreneurs it's actually something that can work very effectively inside of larger organizations to help to break down these kinds of silo walls by creating structures that allow people from different parts of an organisation to get together more frequently, to share ideas and to create a culture that has more innovation in it. So the question from earlier is absolutely right. You can't create mohr innovation just by putting people in a bunch of cubicles and making them half height so that you can prairie dog up and see other people, right that's not gonna work. What you have to do is to create structures that that promote these kinds of interactions in order to get people talking across an organization and sharing information in ways that will help people to see that there might be people from one part of a business who are actually solving a similar problem that people in another part of the business are also trying to solve. Um, and by the way, this is something we've tried to help a number of different organizations to develop. We did a little bit of work a few years ago, special operations command in the u s military. They were trying to be a little bit more innovative there, the admiral in charge of special forces. Gave a mandate to special operations command about being a little bit more innovative and so we introduced them to the concept of the reef and they've got their own little special forces reef going on right now it's special operations command to try and help their organization get more innovative because, you know, back in the eighties nineties right, the special forces were not a huge part of the military this is things like that the army rangers in the navy seals like that and then after nine eleven, they were actually given the mandate to prosecute the war on terror, right? So they became a much bigger organization in a hurry and the command unit went from hundreds of people to thousands of people very quickly and of course that created all sorts of silos, and so they're very interested in finding ways of getting people teo organize. Now what are the kinds of things that they and other organizations can do in order to build this kind of a structure? One of the things that you want to do is to think about what are the kinds of events that you can create that will add value to people's day because you know what the first thing you have to remember when you're trying to create some kind of structure to give people the opportunity to be more innovative, you have to remember that everyone is too busy all right, if you look at any organization everyone already has way too much to do. So the question is if you're going to create a new event, a new structure for people to be a part of what is the value that it's gonna have for people's daily lives why air they're gonna want to engage in that event right? And you can on ly create event you can't legislate this, you have to create events that people want to be a part of, you have to create systems people want to be a part of you know, a lot of companies have said, oh, people love facebook let's create our own social media network and then they create this in house social media network and they're stunned to find out after three months that nobody's using it why aren't people using it? Everyone loves social media well because there was no value to this particular network as opposed to all of the other ones you need to structure the interactions in a way that are really focused on what is the value of each of the individual events to the people who are going to be there. So can you create a talk siri's in which people are going to learn some new things you know, these lunch and learned siri's, for example are really wonderful where you bring in speakers that are going to be a broad interest but then you give everybody fifteen or twenty minutes on the back end to talk with each other a little bit right? And, uh, and and so now they go, they learn something, and in the process, they also share a little bit of information with the people around them, you know, networking meetings can be good, but on ly, if you force people to talk with folks that they wouldn't normally talk with, I mean, it's scary how many times I've gone to networking meetings on ly toe, watch people talk with the ten people that they talked to all the time anyhow, right? I mean, you need to create this more like speed dating, right where you force interactions between people, you know, you set up something where you have all these tables, and then you make sure that nobody who knew each other before they walked in the door, or at least nobody who's spoken to each other in the last week and a half is able to sit at the same time, okay? Another thing you want to do is to find those expert generalists in your community and get them engaged in these activities, because that one of the great things that those expert generalists do is that they're aware of what lots of different people are doing, and so they're great at making connections among different people they hear a problem that you're trying to solve and they know there's somebody else elsewhere within the organization who's working on something really similar and you guys need to get together and by the way, the expert generalised does a really good job of translating because sometimes you frame the problem one way somebody else has described it in a completely different way but actually you're working on a very similar thing and that expert generals does a really nice idea of translating between it so that you realize you're actually ultimately doing the same thing. Okay, so um so what I want you to do so here's another thing we're gonna try um I want to take a few minutes and I want you to think about some kind of organization you're involved with, okay? It could be a business, it could be a nonprofit, it could be a community okay? And I want to ask I want you to ask yourself to the extent that there are any communication problems, any ways in which people are not communicating effectively, what are some of the things that you could do that would increase that degree of communication? And I've got a few potential questions that you could use for this on page thirty seven of the boat and so you could look at that, but but the idea is what if you were building a reef within something that that you're a part of you know what would it look like? What are some of the activities you'd be interested in in playing around and while you're thinking about that will will go to jail we have some things to talk about you were mentioning before about building this community within an organization this question comes from so sensible and they want to know a little bit more about the customer service so kind of extending this neighborhood to your customers not just your employees now they say that seems something some businesses have no clue that customers are people and they should be part of the neighborhood as well that's right that's right there are you know it's very interesting the way that different companies choose to treat their customers and so some some companies treat their customers as resource is right and some people really try to create relationships with um and uh and I think you know, this idea of creating relationships with customers is a very important nothing to do recognizing that people you know I mean it's a little trite sometimes for example when you when you get on an airplane and they say you know, we know you have a choice and air travel and you I really don't but but but you know, it's I think it's important for people to you know, for companies to be able to recognize that that people are you know, people have lots of things that they could do with their time and their money and their effort and that um and that when you engage with them and bring them into your your neighborhood that you are, um increasing their connection to what it is that you do and I think where a lot of businesses fall over on this is in forgetting that our goal in most businesses is not to sell something to somebody once but to sell something to somebody periodically for the rest of their lives, you know, even if it's a purchase that you make every several years, right? I mean even you know, I think even car companies have begun to recognize the value of these relationships and I and I don't I don't I mean, it's not you know, not to denigrate car companies, but I think you know, the view of car salesmen, salespeople, you know, twenty years ago was these were like the slimiest people on the planet you know, you'd rather be sitting next to you know, I don't know someone who just got released from jail for some horrible crime than to be seated next to a car sales, but in fact I think you know, part of the reason for that is because for a long time, people treated car sales as something you were going to do once so so the the object was to maximize the profit on this particular sale and I think their car companies had begun to do a car dealers have begun to dio is to think maura about establishing relationships with their customer in the hope of getting business that extends for a lifetime partly by the continued purchase of cars of that brand, partly by using the dealer is a source of service and things like that, and what that's done is to create these relationships with people and that's I think are really, really welcome change it, but it the difficulty and doing this and I should I should point this out. One of the difficulties in treating your customers as as people is the customers have to you have to know the degree to which your customers really want to engage with you beyond the point of sale. So I think it's really important to treat people with that kind of neighborly respect while they're in this store. But you know what? We live in a world of constant email, constant phone calls, constant circulars in the mail and honestly, it's not clear, most of us want that much communication with our retail outlets and some of the other businesses we engage with ana moore on a more consistent basis than that, and so I think it's really important teo to be very clear about the degree to which people can opt into deeper engagement with some of these order imitations because it can get really annoying to be getting all of this friendly email from stores that that I, while I was very happy with the customer service experience, they're not my friends, you know? And so, um so I think that's one of the one of the points that I think needs to be managed to some degree. Great. Now we another question here. This is talking about how fragile these neighborhoods and I guess silos as well. How fragile they khun b now, is this something where just one or a few people could quickly damage the sense of neighborhood in community? And maybe you have an example of ah case when that's happened? Yeah, yeah. So it's really important to recognize that social interactions are there? Very powerful, but but you, khun, you can break the authenticity of an organization in a hurry. And I there's a couple of different kinds of examples. Let's start with a recent example of a place where a company miss estimated the, um the the nature of it's in the neighborhood that was associated with its consumer. Right, so so you know, very recently right there was kind of a debacle of penny when ron johnson got brought in you know, he obviously had a brilliant run at apple on developed the apple stores and then he sort of plopped the same solution down onto j c penny said, yeah, well, we made these upscale apple stores everybody loves him let's just take j c penney and make it a kind of collection of these upscale little boutiques and and what it did was to alienate the kind of the neighborhood of shoppers that were associated with j c penny because they felt like they were getting an inauthentic communication from the store and it did really I think, lasting damage to the to the chain and it didn't take long, right? It wasn't like a slow erosion it was more like, you know, rats fleeing the deck, you know, peop people just people just just we're completely uninterested in being ah, part of that and I think you know, and I've seen this in cos a cz well, you know, you get you get a group that's been functioning very well together and we'll give you an example I'm there's a company that I know that that had spent quite a wild grooming ah particular individual to take over as, um as the head of a major business unit and everyone was excited for that. And that person had done a very nice job of kind of creating a really feel of the neighborhood. And at the very last minute, the organization stepped in and put somebody from the outside and charge that business unit because they saw this is a target of opportunity. They got somebody who had great success from somewhere else, and they brought this person in. And I thought, wow, this is really going to just just gonna be amazing. And and it totally backfired. There was almost immediate in fighting and anger because what happened was they took something that had this wonderful neighbourhood feel to it. And then they brought in someone who who had no connection to that neighborhood and was immediately now tryingto make changes. They didn't really get to know what was going on. They said, well, this is the sort of thing that's worked in other places, and they just began to institute changes and on the reaction I mean, I got I got called in to start talking to people about this, about what went wrong because within three or four months, the productivity of ground all hauled half a dozen people left right and it's it's amazing how quickly that can happen, and it was really a tone deaf decision. On the part of the management to bring in somebody from the outside without really understanding the nature of of the organization itself so it can be very fragile when, because, you know, if you think about it, it's, um, you know, each of us has ah, you know, has given of ourselves to be to be at work, right? And most of us feel like if we really tried, we could probably maximize the amount of money we make by going somewhere else, right? We've given up opportunities because we because we believe in what we're doing and at the moment that you stopped believing in what you're doing, you look around and you start seeing the words in your workplace, and every workplace has words, right? And so it and as soon as you start doing that, as soon as you believe that your workplace is in some way unfair that's the point at which you just you start, you start, you know what? Once people start talking about fairness, you've really lost the battle, right? That's the point in which people are going to start looking for somewhere else to be because they want to be in a place that is that where they feel like they are being treated with a degree of respect.

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