Silos Are For Farmers!

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I originally wrote today’s post for CallidusCloudCX; it was published on their blog on July 26, 2017.

In last July’s webinar with CallidusCloudCX, I talked about nine behaviors of CX Losers. (There are more than nine, without a doubt!) One of the behaviors was failing to break down organizational silos.

I grew up on a farm, so I’m quite familiar with silos. And that’s where they belong, on the farm; they’re concrete or metal structures that are created to hold or to store something, to separate the contents (grains), and to make that something difficult to get at (by rodents, predators, weather, etc.).

That sounds very similar to what organizational silos do: hold, separate, and protect. One silo, er, department, will hold, separate, and protect its contents (data, information, resources, etc.) from another department. Even worse, the focus within each organizational silo is on the flavor of the day, or of the silo – whatever that silo is working on, which may or may not be connected to what the rest of the organization is focused on.

Organizational silos cause pain for your employees. They lead to reduced efficiencies, waste resources, kill productivity, reduce morale (with a them-and-us mentality), and are detrimental to your ability to create a customer-focused culture. This means they cause pain for your customers, too. And they wreak havoc on your CX strategy.

Silos kill innovation. They create nightmares for the customer experience. And say good-bye to the omnichannel experience! When departments and channels don’t talk and share customer data, the experience is fragmented and frustrating. You’ve experienced this: Think about having to re-enter your information when you go from website to phone or providing information when transferred from rep to rep. That frustrates customers to no end!

When a company is silo’d, the following are just some of the things that happen in a vacuum:

  • Communications: no consistency
  • Actions: no consistency
  • People development: training, coaching, hiring, rewards and recognition, etc.: no common standards or consistency
  • Data access and usage: no data sharing
  • Information and knowledge: no sharing
  • Technology and tools: unique to each silo of the organization
  • Metrics: unique and inconsistent

There is no consistency or uniformity when there are silos; every department is using its own tools and processes to support what they are doing rather than working efficiently and consistently with the rest of the organization to be more cohesive, to be one company. And employees and customers feel it and know it.

What do companies need to do?

They need to get everyone in sync, on the same page, and working together toward a common goal.

Think about this: silo is more of a mentality than a physical thing. There are no walls in place to keep you from talking to your colleagues in another department and from sharing what you’re working on with others. Department or business unit heads choose to not share information or to collaborate. It’s a leadership issue. It’s a culture issue. It requires a shift in mentality!

How can you start to shift the mentality? Try these…

1. Journey maps: by definition, when you map customer journeys, you must involve cross-functional stakeholders, which (a) gets them collaborating and sharing and (b) helps them see how various departments impact a single customer journey. As a result of that epiphany, they realize they must work together to improve the experience. A previous client mapped their customer journeys and learned that their silo’d business units created a poor experience for the customer, who had to re-engage as a new customer each time he worked with a different business unit. After mapping, they flipped the organization on its head and organized the business to align with the customer journey rather than being a silo’d journey through their individual business units.

2. Governance structure, steering committee: helps to ensure that action plans are executed and outcomes are measured – cohesively, in a collaborative fashion – across the organization; the governance board functions as the engine and the oversight committee of a CX change management initiative. They get people working together toward a common cause/goal. They ensure alignment and accountability, and their cross-functional collaboration is priceless.

3. Communications and collaboration technology: put systems into place that allow employees to share information, learnings, and more across departments, channels, business units, etc. Put technology in place that facilitates and encourages communication and collaboration. Encourage collaboration and cross-functional teamwork – through journey mapping, action planning, design thinking, etc. – in the interest of the customer. Having the tools and technology in place facilitates and supports an open culture.

4. Leadership and executive commitment: breaking down silos is a culture and a mindset shift, and of course, that means it comes from the top. Both company executives and department/business unit heads must lead the charge. What can they do?

  • Improve cross-functional and organization-wide communications and interactions by initiating, supporting, and facilitating the conversation starters
  • Share stories, acknowledge successes, and cross-team collaboration
  • Work toward a common goal, in a very vocal way, i.e., talk about the common goal and how each department impacts it
  • Speak the same language, using a common vocabulary when it comes to the customer and the customer experience
  • Tie CX and other incentives in the same way from department to department, i.e., don’t give people a reason to hate what’s happening in another department

Other thoughts? Make sure you’ve defined and communicated the company’s mission, vision, values, guiding principles, and brand promise. These help to get everyone on the same page. While they may not break down silos, they’ll create alignment and break down some of the mentality barriers that exist with silos.

Have you had success breaking own silos? What have you done? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Silos build the wall in people’s minds and create the barrier in organizations’ “hearts.” -Pearl Zhu

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