Silos Starving Creativity and Collaboration

Recently I took my culture committee, The Better Beryl Bureau, out for a movie and dinner at the dine-in theatre.  They put in a lot of volunteer hours working hard on the culture and events at Beryl.  When I asked for a vote on the movie, it was unanimously The Hunger Games!  I was excited to kick back and relax with an exciting movie.  But throughout the movie, an epiphany hit me like a ton of books, Hunger Games – the top young adult book trilogy and grossing movie, could be a metaphor for an  example of silos in an organization and how if broken down could lead to changing the future!

If you haven’t been exposed to The Hunger Games phenomenon you must read these sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat books! But in the meantime, the important thing for you to know is that in a post apocalyptic world, The Capital, made up of the politicians, wealthy and the highly entitled population is fueled by the resources from the outlying twelve districts that are starved and abused.  The districts are vaguely aware of each other but are kept in line through brutal police tactics, electric fences and the annual reminder of what their ancestors caused with their opposition, The Hunger Games.

It wasn’t until the districts learned of each other, worked together and merged resources that they were able to overcome the capital.   

Do you see silos in your organization preventing collaboration? How often do you get to the office, put up your blinders and bury your head in your own world?  What would happen if the silos came down?  What would you overcome?

For an entire year, Beryl focused on how to bring to the forefront what goes on in other departments.  Each month a department was responsible for hosting the Beryl Forum meeting, a regularly scheduled meeting for all departments.  Each host highlighted updates and important activities going on in their department to show what it was like to walk in their shoes each day.  Some created fun presentations and games such as Family Feud and Scavenger Hunts while others held more formal presentations.

But by far my very favorite was delivered by the Finance team.  They divided us all into groups of about 10 (there are 140 of us).  Each group received a wooden 3D puzzle of a brontosaurus.  We were told it needed to be completed as a team within 5 minutes.  Easy enough, huh?  Well, it quickly became obvious to a few teams that there were pieces missing while other teams were still oblivious and tried to force the puzzle together.  The teams who were the most successful realized that the missing pieces were in the possession of other teams.  It was amazing to watch the people with the close, cross-departmental relationships start to help each other find missing pieces.  When all the puzzles were finally complete and the laughter died down, the Finance team started to explain how difficult the client billing process could be if there were missing pieces that they relied on from the Operations team or how it impacts the business when a department leader is late with his budget submissions.  There were so many ah-ha moments that day.  It really sunk in for many of us. I can tell you that I am no longer late with my American Express card reconciliations!

Instead of following long time traditions of The Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta decided to work together in order to come out alive. Through this one act, they gave the rest of the twelve districts the fuel and motivation to work together to put an end to corrupt politics and oppression.  Now Beryl didn’t overthrow President Snow but ever since we all went through this process, there has been an increased awareness of how our actions impact our team mates, relationships have strengthened and communication has improved.  We are more aware of how we can utilize the strengths of others in order to reach our goals successfully.

What are some things your company does to break down silos?

Editors Note: For the past 12 years Lara Morrow has been The Queen of Fun & Laughter at The Beryl Companies, a title accidentally appointed due to her wacky personality.  She spearheads their internal communication, recognition, employee relations, leadership training and culture strategy. Her efforts have led to Beryl being recognized nine different times as a best place to work including being voted the #2 Best Medium Sized Company to work for in America. She is a co-author of Smile Guide, Employee Perspectives on Culture, Loyalty and Profit. After hours, Lara “releases steam” through her passion for cooking, blogging and reviewing local restaurants.

About Marisa

Marisa Keegan is a leadership coach, trainer, and HR consultant for quickly growing organizations who are passionate about strengthening their employees, their brand, and their culture. She has helped lead the HR, culture, and engagement initiatives at two nationally recognized great places to work; Rackspace as Culture Maven and Modea as Talent Manger. She is an author at Fistful of Talent and Culture Fanatics. Marisa has her Masters in Industrial Organizational Psychology and currently lives with her husband and twin boys in Richmond, Virginia.
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