Former President Ronald Reagan spoke these now famous words on June 12, 1987:
General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
Look at it closely. Can you imagine you or someone in your business giving a similar speech?
Department heads, team leaders and team members, if we seek success, if we seek prosperity for each other and our company, if we seek new ideas for new products and services to serve new markets: Come here to this meeting! Let’s open our office doors! All of us together, let’s tear down the walls that keep us from sharing ideas, sharing credit, sharing challenges and resources to conquer them. Let’s tear down those walls!
Silos of expertise leveraged the power of focus and specialization with their walls, rules and physical separation and budgets, blocking any unruly distractions from entering. They were successful when competitors were few, price of entry was high and the pace of change moved s-l-o-w-l-y. But, as those elements changed, the unruly distractions were recognized as valuable conversations and collaborations and connections.
However, change is not spread evenly. The author William Gibson summed this up nicely when he said:
The future is already here - it’s just not very evenly distributed.
The silos of expertise are imbalanced against the silos of resentment, bureaucracy, lack of training and resources and talent. Those silos become cesspools of disengagement, mostly active, holding your members and their organization from their full potential.
There will be those declining numbers who will resist this future. They will insist their silos, real or imagined, remain in place. There future is here and it's theirs and any change is bad.
Recognize your future and their appropriate strengths and begin to tear down those walls. Show every silo how those walls, their walls, hold them back. Show them the future is reached together or not at all.
Be their leader. Be their Ronald Reagan. Inspire them to tear down those walls!
While this is simple to write, it is challenging to execute. You will be surprised at how much dust is kicked up, how much baggage is unloaded...on you, the leader. Backlashes often arise as the change and disruptions move past slogans and timelines into meaningful actions.
And, who wants more confrontations? We have enough to confront with constant innovations, competitive pressures, the challenge of leading an organization. Confronting the privileged, setting limits for the entitled, delaying children's gratifications, is almost always unpleasant. There's never a guarantee of success, anyway.
However, you are guaranteed to fail if you choose instead to perpetuate those pathologies and choose silence.
The benefit for you? Well, your organization will survive and thrive. They’ll recognize you as a leader, one who communicated a vision and a purpose that brought out their best, uniting competing interests and skills and passions towards a common goal. Your leadership, their strengths, are confirmed as projects come to completion sooner, customers and employees stay longer, cash flows grow stronger.
You're a leader. You have the strengths to find solutions for these challenges. You see the mountaintop. You see the futures waiting around the corner. One is success and a thriving, engaged organization. Who cares what the other one is, right?
As CEO of a small company I was amazed to see silos develop within the first year. IT did this, but not that. Customer Service that, but not this. Accounting and Sales followed suit. Praise for one created jealousy in the others.
Platitudes of We're in this together. It's our company. We have the chance to do things the right way...went as far as the conversation in changing the above attitudes.
Over time, I did a few smart things.
1. Continued recognizing their achievements.
2. Linked each achievement with the peripheral, background successes of everyone else, showing how small victories over here led to huge victories, here, that we celebrated that day.
2. Created a Company Snitch Program which helped everyone look for and share the peripheral, background, successes of each other. These monthly recitations turned into a virtuous circle of achievements, big and small, ending the meeting in a rousing cheer leaving us with enough enthusiasm to last for days.