Virtual specialist

Silos destroy collaboration


The most universal problem facing organisations

I think silos may be the most universal problem facing large organisations. And most people don't realise how much pain it is causing or the cost to the organisation.

Silos are nothing more than the barriers that surface between departments within an organisation, causing people who are supposed to be on the same team to work against each other. And whether this phenomenon is called departmental politics, divisional rivalry or turf warfare, it is one of the most frustrating aspects of life in any sizeable organisation.

Silos are a problem because they reduce connectedness. In any successful organisation all parts of the business need to be connected at some level to every other part. All parts are interdependent. No part can thrive in isolation. Like the human body, the whole is healthy only if the parts are healthy.

I've heard people say that building a cohesive leadership team is the first critical step that an organisation must take in order to give it the best chance of success. However, even when leadership teams become cohesive, there is another, more structural issue that often thwarts their efforts and creates unnecessary politics within an organisation. That issue is silos.

Our Desilonisation Program

Our Desilonisation Program is a proven method for getting your people out of silos and reducing the inward focus, poor communications and petty politics that result from silos. The Program has 12 half day modules run over about 4 or 5 months. This provides time for trust and understanding to grow and for people to permanently change their behaviours. In the process workplaces previously full of anger, frustration, petty politics, lack of passion and high stress become workplaces of trust, understanding, collaboration, honesty and high energy. For more information...

Tailor-made after careful diagnostics

Our program is carefully tailored after thorough diagnostics (this includes getting mutual agreement about what the real problems are) and careful prescription (including a clear statement of the mutually agreed approach to be used, any side affects or short comings of the treatment and pros and cons of alternative approaches).

Depending on the issues involved, the skills and knowledge within the organisation and what has already been achieved, breaking silos usually involves working on some or all of the following 10 components...

Where to start

In most cases the Desilonisation Program is the best place to start but it always depends on the diagnostics, including your major problems, your skills and experience and what has already been tried. However, because the blame for silos and politics belongs at the top of the organisation, I have usually found that the best place to start is by working with the senior 20 or 30 managers; building their strength, developing their trust of each other; increasing their level of connection and giving them tools to lead and empower their people more effectively. We usually start by developing leaders, including...

Product support

This product has been developed and is supported by Bruce Holland with help where required from other members of the Virtual Group Business Consultants.


All work undertaken by Bruce Holland is guaranteed. If at the end of the program the client doesn't feel that they have received value for money, they may adjust the bill and pay an amount equal to the value they feel they received.

A call to action

This is an important issue. It is costing far more than most people realise. Don't put up with it any longer!

Phone +6421620456 or Skype Bruce.Holland\\email

Other Information on Desilonisation and Collaboration

The cost of silos

Where silos are strong I find infighting occurs to a high level and attention shifts drastically inward, away from issues such as customers and competitors, and toward battles over budgets, titles and responsibility for mistakes.

At the organisational level they separate work teams, departments and divisions. Silos make managers eager to defend their power, hoard capital and talent even when those resources could be better used elsewhere.

They cause people who are supposed to be on the same team to work against each other, paralysing performance. These factions breed office politics and infighting that cause stress and exasperation that ultimately kills productivity and pushes the best people towards the door.

Battles occur between the headquarters and the field office. And between marketing and engineering. And even within engineering, researchers and developers can be at war over who warrants more head count, budget dollars, and recognition for the success of products.

Silos are not the natural way of working

Although silos may be the normal way of working, I can prove that they are not the natural way of working. The fact is, most employees deep within an organisation have a genuine interest in working well across divisions. That's because they feel the daily pain of departmental politics as they are left to fight bloody, unwinnable battles with their colleagues.

Why silos occur

In most situations, silos rise up not because of what executives are doing purposefully, but rather because of what they are failing to do. They fail to lead and role model:

  • The key principles behind the new science of collaboration and productive partnerships
  • How to establish active relationships between key individuals across boundaries
  • How to establish joint visions and strategies across boundaries
  • How to measure success within strategic policy partnerships
  • How to provide themselves and their employees with a compelling context for working together.

Without this leadership and role modelling, employees at all levels -especially the senior team- easily lose their way. Even the most well-meaning, intelligent people get distracted and confused.

Business case for Collaboration

The costs of silos are far more than most managers realise. The business case for collaboration is compelling. Lack of collaboration includes duplication of effort, things that fall through the cracks, customers with piece-meal solutions, internal focus and petty politics.

What is Collaboration?

When I talk about collaboration I'm talking about something deeper than most people would think about. Collaboration is much more than meeting and networking. Click here to find out What Is Collaboration.

A Case Study in Sector Collaboration

Click here for a Case study of Sector collaboration involving Police, Fire Service, Rural Fire, Ambulance, Department of Conservation, Defence and Civil Defence that changed the way all these agencies work together to protect us and make New Zealand safer.

Secrets to achieving Collaboration

Click here to find out the Secrets to Achieving Collaboration.

The new science of collaboration

Some organisations have genuine cooperation between departments and within departments. Inevitably they are led by people who intuitively understand what is required. This is because until recently we've had to rely on intuition to understand the principles of networks and relationships and as a result, although a few people have hit upon these secrets, most have been in the dark. Now these principles have been codified into a whole new Science. The trouble is they have been largely restricted to computer science and sociology. The Laws include:

  • The Science of Networks
  • Metcalfe's law
  • The Law of Weak Ties
  • The Law of Switches
  • The Law of Connectors
  • The Law of Proximity
  • The Law of Reciprocity
  • The Law of Self-Organisation.

Over the last year I've tried to simplify them and turn them into management principles - I call it Pals (Partnerships, Alliances and Linkages). With Pals you can dramatically improve your ability to Network and build Relationships. I think it's one of the most important advances in management because it gives us the technology to work at the next level in the system.

Bruce Holland is an expert

I work with large mature organisations to improve silos, slowness and small-thinking. My aim is to help them become more focussed, fast and flexible; places where people feel more connection, depth and meaning.

I know what it's like to manage large mature organisations. Until becoming an independent consultant in 1992 I worked only in large, mature organisations in senior management roles. My last four years of this period where as Group Strategy Manager at the Bank of New Zealand.

Since 1992 most of my work has been in large mature organisations including Bank of New Zealand, ANZ National Bank, Office of the Auditor General, Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Justice and the Prime Minister's Department.

I have become an acknowledged expert in the area of breaking silos within organisations and increasing cooperation and collaboration and have run several one day workshops on the subject including:

  • "Developing effective and productive partnerships within the social sector", Confrenz conference
  • "How to ensure productive and working relationships across all tiers of government for effective policy development", IQPC Conference
  • "Achieving outcomes through effective collaboration", Confrenz conference.

Probable outcomes of getting help with cooperation and collaboration

  1. Focus moves from internal matters to be clearly on the customer and the end result
  2. All parts of the organisation work to the same agenda
  3. All organisation that make up the sector work to the same objective
  4. Managers are less political and value results more than power
  5. Barriers and silos are broken down
  6. Decisions are faster and more focused
  7. Communications are faster and more open.

For related information see...

Bruce Holland is an expert in Strategy, Structure, Culture, Leadership Development.

One of NZ's most experienced change agents.

Liberating the Human Spirit at Work
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