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Bruce Holland

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Why Silos Are So Dangerous

The main reason why silos are so dangerous is they cut a system into bits, and bits of a system can't possibly emerge like a whole system does.

Try cutting a fly into bits and you'll see what I mean.

Silos are dangerous for organisations

One of the amazing things about a system is that, left to its own devices, without any top-down control, it will organise itself through very simple rules into complex behaviours. This is called emergence. It's one of the most basic organising principles of the universe.

An organisation, whether a company, a Department, or a Ministry, is a system and for it to work in an emergent type way it needs to be a system. It can't be cut up into segments or reorganised into silos and still expected to behave like the total system, because it won't; it's no longer a whole system.

When you start trying to control systems, pin them down, cut them up and turn them into silos, what you end up with is quite bizarre behaviours that look nothing like common sense.

Managers start to argue, and compete against each other for resources, people, budgets and attention, having no regard for the overall good.

Systems are living, control them too much and you will kill them. Something that was alive and vibrant becomes dead and mechanical.

The individual parts (Marketing, Production, Policy, Corporate Services) might in some ways work like a system, but they will tend to work towards emergent behaviour that is favourable to itself rather than to the whole organisation. They will go off in their own direction.

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Silos are dangerous for Sectors

Now taking it up the next fractal level we could argue exactly the same way about Sectors. The Health Sector can't be like a sensible Health Sector unless it is allowed to emerge like a sector, with connected people having a lot of freedom and a lot of choice and able to behave in fairly commonsense sort of ways, like, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

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How to reduce silos

If you want your organisation to emerge naturally like a system you have to work at reducing silos, bringing people together, building trust and getting people connected.

Leadership becomes vital in this bigger picture. It's not about telling people what to do but training them so they know what to do. Help them make good decisions, support them, encourage them and tell them, "You can do it!"

You will also need the deSILOnisation Program. It is the best solution I've found to make large mature organisations more connected, cooperative and collaborative.

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Give me a call if I can help. In the meantime: Think BIG!

Warmest wishes,


Bruce Holland Virtual Group Business Consultants Phone +6421620456 or Skype Bruce.Holland Liberating the human spirit at work

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