I work with so many talented people at Knightsbridge that the opportunity to bring you a diverse mix of stories and perspectives is vast.  Today, a first guest post from my colleague and friend Dr. Tracy Cocivera.  Tracy is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist who brings her keen insights on individual behavior to the team realm.  I think you’ll love this true story of one of the teams she’s been working with and their radical solution to the silo problem. Enjoy!

Is your management team continuously fighting about who is doing what and blaming each other when things don’t get done?  Are you tired of your teammates hording information and not collaborating?  Are you frustrated because performance is suffering and no one is stepping up?  You probably have a silo problem.

I recently worked with a team that was suffering from this challenge.  The team’s leader was at a loss of how he was going to get the team to see the need to work collaboratively across their functional areas.  Then it dawned on him—if he couldn’t tear down the silos, he would change who was in them.  He decided to switch their roles!

For 4 months, he asked 3 members of his 5 member executive team to switch roles.  His finance leader moved into an operations role, his operations leader moved into a production support role, and his production support leader moved into the finance role.  The team leader and the HR leader stayed put.

The team was highly skeptical at first, but by end the end of the 4 months they were a much more cohesive team.  They had to be: they could no longer rely on their functional expertise to move key pieces forward.

The team highlighted the following lessons learned …

They were proud that:

  •       Day-to-day work continued on without any big disruptions.  They achieved solid results at the end of the quarter.
  •       They moved significant pieces forward that had been stalled for months
  •       They had a better appreciation for each other’s portfolios, priorities, challenges and solutions.
  •       They went back to their original roles with broader, more integrated, and collaborative perspectives.  They trusted their team members more.
  •       They had a clearer understanding of roles and responsibilities and were more willing to help in other areas
  •       They empowered their teams by adding their value at the right level.  They stayed out of the weeds and let their teams do the work.

They also discovered that:

  •       Direction and priorities were unclear and not aligned in many instances
  •       Decisions were not always timely and/or were re- opened for discussion unnecessarily
  •       Handoff points were not clear between the functional areas
  •       Lack of communication was leading to many of the tensions

After the rotations, team members were more motivated to solve the challenges facing the team—and to solve them as a team.  They realized that each team member was committed and invested.  Working through challenges became easier as each team member had a better understanding of what each of them were dealing with in their own areas.

To this day, the team continues to work collaboratively and solve challenges as a team.  If you’re on a siloed team, consider rotating roles.  It may not solve all of your challenges but it will go a long way on communication, collaboration, and trust.

Further Reading

Team Building Exercise: Pass the Problem

The 1 Thing you can do to Improve Communication Today

The Case for More Conflict

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