It isn't just your company -- a common denominator I'm finding in my work with small and large companies alike, is that communication across business silos is a major issue. And it is an issue that, in the context of business dynamics today, is GROWING. I hear phrases like "the leaders don't talk with one another" and the mission of our company is "lacking clarity" all the time. Sound familiar?
Executives, perhaps surprisingly, are yearning for more clarity of direction and overall connection to the greater organization even more than line-employees. (I suspect the line-employees are used to feeling a bit left out -- executives are not.)
I was called on to help with just such a situation of company-wide low "strategy engagement," shortly after the prior recession. Below I'll share two strategies which were deployed. One worked, one did not.
PLAN A: Data, and a Tops-Down Approach.
After a series of one-on-one interviews with the company executives to understand and validate the problem, I started with an analytical approach. Essential information about the company's, and its business units' annual and quarterly goals, priorities, and objectives was documented in an easy to read format -- everything "on a page" with hyperlinks to drill downs. Visability into how goals did, or did not, dovetail with one another and the overarching company priorities was part of the design. (Don't assume this information is written down until someone asks for it!) I quickly found that divisional leaders were eager to see the document. That's right about where this particular approach ended.
It didn't work.
Despite high praise for the work from the most data-stringent of the executives, and an executive round-table reviewing the data where they outlined the next session where they would go deeper, and start having "prioritizing talks" -- the body of work became a hot potato doomed to be roadkill.
[*This company certainly had constructive strategy-dovetailing conversations down the line. My point here is that is this was not the ideal place to START when you want the company to start communicating, getting more connected with one another, and the greater mission.]
PLAN B: Emotion, and an All-Around Approach
Plan B came about almost by happen-stance. After about six months into the job of "Strategy Engagement," I found myself helping out a division articulate the value prop of their organization for recruiting purposes.
This exercise prompted some community-involved conversations about what they, as individuals, looked for in an ideal job, and what inspired them to work there. The "inspire" word was the key to the kingdom. What emerged when asked that question was visceral.
Thus began the more bottoms-up and community-based "Strategy Engagement" work -- which, when paired with social technology and BEHAVIOR, greatly fanned the flames of cross-silo communication, innovation, revenue generation, and more.
What was at the core of Plan B? Two Things.
- "Social Media at Work"
The company had a nascent internal social network at the time. My role, and that of many others at the company, became one of listening, genuine participation, sharing, facilitating, and removing of road blocks in the way of goodness.
When enabled and welcomed to do so, employees embrace communicating with one another! When they feel safe to share, they will share ideas that will spawn wonderous cross-silo communication -- and as a result, community spirit will take root and grow.
- LEADERSHIP STYLE
The leadership increasingly displayed a self-less/ego-less style and avoided trying to control the conversation. They learned to listen more to the "global genius" of the workforce, before calling the play.
Reminds me of something I heard from Jack Welch of GE fame, once: He described his role as "Leader" by saying, "I walk around with fertilizer and water."
When this leadership style is blended with the tool of social networking at work, amazing things happen!
After just two to three years of Plan B's leadership-enabled organic growth -- one marked with inclusion, "water & fertilizer leadership," and social technology -- this particular company (EMC) was rewarded with results which included record levels of employee satisfaction, product innovation, customer satisfaction, market share, and revenue.
MOST ADMIRED COMPANY
And another thing: Continued respect.
The people who conduct the survey behind FORTUNE's Most Admired Companies once shared with me their findings on the single most important factor to STAYING on that list: "cross-silo collaboration."
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What is your company doing -- or not doing -- to help enable cross-silo communication and collaboration?
Is it a challenge where you work?
If you would like to explore this subject more for your business or consulting practice, feel free to contact me.
Thanks for engaging.