As we look at enterprise social networking and the benefits it enables, it’s clear that the companies perform better when people collaborate. Yet as individuals, collaboration is not necessarily how we’re judged and rewarded. This usually has to do with our objectives which tend to be very focused on being individual contributors. Even executives’ objectives tend to be focused toward organizational performance, and sometimes these objectives can only be achieved at the company’s or other executive’s expense.
When dealing with new people inside a large company, it is common to question why people are acting the way they are and be suspicious of motives. This is often because people don’t understand what your role is inside the company and as a result, that lack of understanding and trust can make getting things done challenging.
During my last post Improving collaboration, breaking down silos, and innovating better. What does that all mean?, I shared what “improving collaboration” probably means to most people in the context of making business better. Today, I’m going to delve into the world of silos. What are they, what does it mean when someone tells you they want to “Break down silos” and finally how to challenge the person to understand what they really mean when referencing this jargon.
What is a silo?
According to dictionary.com, a silo is “a structure, typically cylindrical, in which fodder or forage is kept”. In the business context, a silo generally represents a wall or boundary put up by an organization to keep them focused on accomplishing their goals and keeping outsiders from interfering with progress. Sometimes these are also called “stovepipes”. Some might even go on to add that it’s an organizational construct designed to protect and serve the hierarchy. The bottom line is that silos are a method for ensuring focus around specific business deliverables.
I’ve been around Enterprise 2.0 (or Social Business) for more than 3 yrs now. Since going to my first Enterprise 2.0 conference in 2008, I have been fortunate to be part of one of the most successful deployments of social technology in a large company (Computer World) to date. The approach was not filled with business cases and justification, but instead was largely fed by need and opportunity.
As I work with more organizations, I realize that a common trend is emerging. There is a group of people in the company that are generally not convinced that the social enterprise is the next best thing; Middle Management. While many other parts of the organization have been addressed by practitioners, this audience remains mostly ignored, with many feeling that they’ll just come along if everyone else does.
Last week, we (Alcatel-Lucent)were one of the companies impacted by the Jive Software Outage (@JiveSoftware). Our platform Engage runs on Jive S.B.S. At first, it seemed like it was going to be a long day. Working for a European company, this hit when they were all working (11am), and most of us in the US were still in bed. There was very little (no) communications to indicate that Jive was aware of the problem, let alone working on it. It was starting to get a bit frustrating entering hour 2 of a global outage.
By all account, it was through Facebook that I actually learned that other companies were impacted, not just us. Ted Hopton (@Ted_Hopton), one of my peers from the 2.0 Adoption Council noted, “does not like bad news when he first checks the Blackberry in the morning.”
followed by a comment when queried by another of his connections, “No, company website I run crashed.”
It was then that I realized that we were not alone. That single piece of information actually made me feel better. Why? Because since multiple customers were impacted, I was sure that it was getting attention.
Let’s face it, most of us disdain arrogance, yet some of us practice this unbecoming behavior unintentionally. In this very competitive world, it is very difficult to exude confidence to make people believe in you without sounding arrogant, but yet that challenge is what each of us must consider when managing our brands.
As brand fanatics, we align ourselves to certain brands in both our personal and professional lives. How would you feel if that trusted brand started trying to make itself look good by putting the competition down or embarrassing you? Would you still be a brand fanatic? For how long?
I’ve been a “Ford guy” for a long time (20 years), and being a technology guy (even longer), I’ve made a living off of Microsoft as an MCSE. When I bought my Ford Escape back in April 2009, I was so excited to have Microsoft Sync. But after a little over a year, I have to say I really wish I hadn’t. I’ve been thinking about writing this for a while, but decided to get past the emotion surrounding my frustration with the system and Ford that I’m reminded of every time I drive. It never ceases to amaze me how strong emotions are around our rides. Now I finally feel I can focus on the details and not the emotions.
Social may be a 4 letter word in some companies, but I have to wonder why? Social is nothing new to enterprises, the only thing is we are now labeling it.
In the “Old Days”, companies encouraged their workers to socialize and party together. Sometimes even going so far to build communities for their workers to live in. Why did they do this? For the company of course. The feeling was that this interaction made people work better together producing more, generating more profit, building loyalty.
A more recent trend was to replace offices with cubes. While some would state that the purpose was to reduce cost of real estate, others suggest that this was done to encourage casual knowledge exchange. While I personally didn’t like the distractions of a cube, the things I heard over cube walls helped me on many occasions.