In this segment of The Everyday Innovator video podcast, Dr. Chad McAllister and I discuss the issue of growing up in silos and how alignment and integration is a key organization design concept.
Designing the elements, like strategy, metrics, the things you mentioned, that make the organization the organization. I appreciate that you emphasize that the alignment between those, designing the alignment that is so important too. Just as a quick aside, one of my experiences. I was invited to join the executive team because I was in the role that sat between all the functions. That role was often being squeezed between the silos, and it just absolutely amazed me, and maybe I saw this more because I was actually between the roles and interacted more with the VPs that were involved.
At one meeting in particular, in an organization that was largely managed by objective, so the CEO would say what the objectives were for the organization and then, same day, after the meeting, go talk to the VP of sales on how he was responding to that objective and the VP of engineering and how he was responding to that objective, and pointing out that if you indeed do what you do that’s going to make this other guy’s job really difficult and challenging, but that wasn’t how they perceived it. He said, “that’s not my responsibility.” In other words, his responsibility was to optimize his role, function, and department. If he is in sales his job is to optimize sales, even if that might jeopardize something that is going on in engineering. That alignment is so very important, and it’s left out of organizations too often.
The issue that you’re talking about is also part of the alignment of incentives and part of the alignment of culture and part of the alignment of developing employees. All too often we grow executives in a particular functional area or silo, and some organizations make sure they get assignments that are broadening, and they get to view other parts, but sometimes they don’t. If you can succeed and get promoted or a bonus based on optimizing your area at the expense of other areas, then the design and the alignment of the incentives are not there.
It’s interesting that most management ideas and techniques and fads we’ve had actually do work if you do them right and you align everything to support them. But all too often we plop down a new management technique or a new management idea in the middle of an organization, and we don’t work through the system integration for lack of a better word, and the lack of alignment among the rest of the components in the organization causes the new management technique to fail. They fail to produce the results, and we blamed the idea or the technique when it was really us not doing our job of good integration and alignment of that new technique into our business systems and our culture.