Do you really want to ‘break down’ the silos?

October 13, 2012 § 8 Comments

Many companies restructure departments or indeed the business because they see dysfunctional behaviour and put it down to their current structure, with the silos driving that behaviour.

There was a purpose to creating your silos

My question is; should they be destroying silos, or simply breaking down the behavior that inhibits sharing of knowledge and collaboration between the silos?

Silos are often seen as a major problem in organisations, however, like most things, they are more complex than that. Silos in organizational structures are a deliberate action to deliver a focused dedicated group of people who are working towards a specific goal.

The downside for many organisations is that an unintended consequence of these silos is that this dedicated group becomes isolated from other areas in the organization or even the customer.  This perceived or in fact real isolation generates the bad publicity that most of us see about silos, further reinforcing negative perceptions such as: refusing to share, cowboys etc.

To ensure clarity of the real problem there are a couple of questions that need to be asked before you head down a path of fixing what is seen as broken.

  • Firstly consider what was the objective in creating silos in the first place?
  • Then consider what is your objective in breaking down silos? What are you actually trying to achieve?

Once you are clear on these you can then begin to understand how you might approach this.

Don’t fall for the mistake of a restructure as your solution if what you need is silos to collaborate and share knowledge. Especially when you still require them to focus on their core objective. Solid data tells us that 70% or more of change initiatives fail so you don’t want to be introducing major change like a restructure in your company unless that is the best solution.  You want to make sure you get the best RIO for what ever it is you decide to do.

Thanks to for the image

Consider facilitating the business requirement that you want, alternatives such as Communities of Practice, Peer Assist activities, Site Visits to explore activities or processes and systems within the different groups, are all solutions designed to address the business requirement of dysfunctional silos.  They are also a hell of a lot cheaper than a restructure. Helping the silos understand how their work flows interact and impact with other silos is key, take them on the journey of how the different areas and roles connect and the inter dependencies they create. These and other such activities, some facilitated, some not, are all best practice ways to generate understanding, create a common language, suspend judgment and build trust.

The best way to achieve this outcome is to involve the people themselves in understanding the problem and coming up with the solution.  A great tool that I have used to assist in achieving the engagement and commitment necessary to set the direction for success in collaborating across silos is the Reverse Brainstorm.

Of course the obvious enabler for the mix in todays connected society is social media. Unless you want to make a mistake many organisations fall for, don’t just include it in the equation without proper consideration of how it will enable your outcome.

Once these factors are introduced into the equation, if you enable and nurture the ongoing dialogue you can build a richer understanding of the benefit of collaboration and sharing, which will deliver energetic interaction across silos.

8 reasons why Social Media fails in organisations Part 3: no understanding of Culture, Communitites and Barriers

August 8, 2011 § 8 Comments

Following on from my previous post on the topic of 8 reasons why Social Media fails in organisations Part 1: No Strategy, Governance or Ownership and 8 reasons why Social Media fails in organisations – Part 2- Business Requirements and Resourcing how to get it right it is now time to visit the last post of this series. No understanding of Culture, Communities and Barriers in organisations, and what can we do about that.

These topics may be last but they certainly are not least.

6/ Fail to understand their culture – so we know that 70% of change initiatives fail ,we also know that if you bring in culture that figure rises to 90%.  What that tells me is that we still don’t understand much about culture in organisations today. That being said, it seems many organisations are still falling into the trap of using the same old approach that failed with their other projects when they are introducing Social Media. I would like to have a conversation here about helping them try to do it differently.

It seems to me that there are a few things that Leaders in organisations could begin with that could chanSolution looking for a problemge the dynamic and key to this is to find out what is the culture already in this area.  Most organisations have it happening already and so if you find out where it is occurring organically it will help you understand where the opportunities are. Remember it is not about a solution looking for a problem.

Some tips to begin your inquiry include:

  • Involving your people in the dialogue before, during & after,
  • Research what they are already doing in this space,
  • Don’t assume based on demographic data that it wont be relevant for them.  Check out stats on these infographics about demographics.

Would love to hear some more tips that people have found helpful in this space.

7/ Fail to nurture the communities – Social Media has this title because it is inherently social, both in how it is developed and used. To often they are set up like a project, prescribed process, ticking boxes and allocating tasks they often over structure and smother what could otherwise be a thriving community. There is more than enough anecdotal evidence around today to safely say your Social Media communities flourish best when they are stewarded effectively and treated like a garden. Nancy White has some great experience to share about this environment.

Basically there are some key things that you can do

Let them know that support is there if they need it and then get out of their way.  Keep in touch to make sure you have the opportunity to learn from them and share their successes.

8/ Fail to understand the Barriers – It is important that practitioners find ways to assist the leaders in our companies to see ways around the barriers and explore the possibilities of Social Media. A great way to help you achieve that is to educate and involve leaders in the dialogue to help them understand how much of the hype is just myths.

When it comes to barriers to the staff adopting these tools companies today are looking to approaches like Reverse Mentoring to help them. Delloite have a digital mentoring program that is a good example of how it not only reduces the fear of the tools but also creates an opportunity for a reciprocal learning and trust building environment that otherwise may not occur between the staff and or  generations.

No matter what your functional role is, leading a collaborative Social/Digital Strategy development for your organisation is a great value proposition.  Involving your peers from other functional groups as well as the employees, especially those already doing something in Social Media in the company will maximise the chances of success for both the communities and business.

I am interested in your experiences and ideas on this topic.

8 reasons why Social Media fails in organisations – Part 2- Business Requirements and Resourcing how to get it right

July 27, 2011 § 5 Comments

Following on from my previous post on the topic of 8 reasons why Social Media fails in organisations Part 1: No Strategy, Governance or Ownership it is now time to visit the areas of Business Requirements and Resourcing levels around the introduction of Social Media in organisations.

Fail 4/ Don’t understand business requirements – We have all experienced the technology approach of a “solution looking for a problem”. This can be the CEO who read it in a Qantas magazine, the IT person who is passionate about wikis saving the world, or any other enthusiastically misguided individual in a position of power who thinks they have ‘the answer’. The biggest problem is so often they don’t know the real problem they believe they are solving. If you want to minimise your risk of failure you need to collaborate and include your people, your customers and your suppliers/partners in finding out what the needs are that they have.  Remember People first as in our framework from the first 3 reasons why Social Media Fails in Organisations – it is called the POST framework.

  • People
  • Objectives
  • Strategy
  • Tools

Fail 5/ Don’t understand or provide resources – Many organisations heading down the Social Media path make the mistake of enabling the tools and thinking that old chestnut of “build it and they will come”.

This is a recipe for failure that has been replicated year after year since we started to implement technology platforms into our organisations. We know that 70% of change initiatives fail  so it seems fairly obvious that we need to approach this differently.

We need to have a realistic understanding of the actual costs of setting up, engaging and nurturing the communities and networks to enable them to be sustainable for the short and long term. There are steps outlined here in our Social Media Field Guide Masterclass preview presentation to help you understand some of them.

Some other steps are, to build the project/change plan and budget for any new initiative like the implementation of Social Media, by clearly understanding the requirements and benefits to the Business. If we do this effectively we have the foundation as well as the ‘shield’ to protect the project should cost cutting come along searching for low hanging fruit. If you have clearly identified the benefits ‘that will only be achieved if implemented correctly with a strong collaborative change strategy’, you will have a much better chance of protecting your budget. Its all about demonstrating clearly managed expectations around benefits, timings and outcomes.

Some further steps that you can use in your project/change plan include:

  • Work with the people to set up the community/network,
  • Educate and clarify for the community roles and responsibilities necessary in these communities and networks,
  • Allow time for key staff members to establish, nurture and sustain the community
  • Keep informing stakeholders and managing their expectations.

Developing and enabling social media communities and networks internally is a relatively inexpensive way for an organisation to learn how to do this. We can then learn from those internal communities, This then enables organisations to leverage off that learning and connect effectively with the clients and partners that are key to the success of their business.

Just to test what was going on around support roles for Social Media, I google’d Social Media Co-ordinators and got about 15,500,000 results (0.14 seconds).  I am hoping there are a lot of internally focused people in this mix to ensure we engage our own people and apply those learnings where ever relevant

We would love to hear your ideas and experiences in failures and examples of how to get Social Media right in organisations…

Experimenting with the possibilities of Google +

July 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

There has been a lot of hype about Google + over the last few weeks.  Some 103,000,000 results in 0.24 second when i used a well known search engine to check the activity🙂

When Google bought out Google Wave I was one of many people who played with it and found it had lots of possibilities. Its a bit sad that they decided not to continue with it but hopefully they learnt enough from it that we will get to experience more of those type of tools in the future.  Because of the Wave experience some have been a bit hesitant to explore +, but i can only share my experience here and encourage others to get onboard and have a play to find out for themselves.

I was invited to join at the beginning of July and what with the other things on my plate i didn’t do too much about it. At a conference last week in Sydney I finally started to play with it and find there are lots of possibilities and would like to share some of the functionality that I experienced with you:

Google + circle

complements of Mashable

Circles – After a bit of prompting from the person who invited me i started playing with setting up my ‘circles’ – that is where you set up groups or lists of people that have similar interests. The drag & drop functionality here is pretty cute. Having circles enables you to chat or post comments to particular topics that a given circle is interested in, instead of ‘spamming’ followers with topics they find irrelevant. You can target your audience – say IT circle only, or IT and Work colleagues, or just everyone so you set it to Public.

Stream – this is where you post, to me it comes over as a cross between twitter, yammer and even a bit of a blog of you want it to be (all be it short term posts).  At the conference twitter went down, so Cory Banks (the person who invited me to +) and I decided to play with Google + instead. I decided to experiment using the stream capability as a real time blog post so that those who were unable to be at the conference could read and continue the conversations. You can make your own decision about how that works if you look at my slide share presentation on the speakers I posted on.

It has a +1 button which is obviously their answer to the Like button on facebook, seems to work fine.

Hangout – looks pretty cool, whilst the conference was on Cory went on Hangout and had a video conference with a couple of guys in different places in the States. He went on the chat function with his head phones on so he could hear them speaking whilst he interacted silently – ever the early adopter.

Huddle – is like setting up a group chat or messages to individuals – of course there is an app for that, have only played with that a little bit but it certainly has potential for collaboration

Of course there are other functions available on Google + but these were the ones that we explored on the day and i thought it would be good to share them and find out what other experiences people have had with this and other functionality that they have used.

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