Once upon a time, “silos” were not seen as the detrimental obstructions they have become for people today. In fact, just the opposite is true! The silos of the past fostered connection and confidence in a community. They even helped foster positive culture changes.
For example, scientists theorize that the 11,000-year-old grain silos found on the shore of the Dead Sea helped transition tribes of hunter-gatherers into fully engaged, complex, unified societies. They even suggest that silos powerfully created cohesion between people in a shared community.
Does this idea of silos creating cohesion seem ironic to you, particularly when you think of the silos we experience today?
You might feel as though you live and work in a silo much more often than you would like. It’s almost as though “siloism” has become what it is to be human. People walk past one another on the street without so much as making eye contact, trapped in the digital world of their smartphones.
Teams of people work from their individual silos, often frustrated by the task interdependencies and waiting on others. All the while they miss out on connecting with the people they work with.
Too many people make decisions in a silo. This then gets in the way of seeing others’ broader perspectives that lead to better outcomes.
For example, one young employee became afraid of what might happen when he approached the end of his 90-day trial period. He was so worried about how he was being perceived that he started applying for other jobs rather than step out of his silo and ask for insight.
When his 90-day period was up, he had a very embarrassing conversation with his boss. He confessed how his fear had drained his emotional energy at a time when he needed to invest it in learning his new job, as he then shared that he’d been looking for work. This didn’t exactly score him any points, as you can imagine.
The funny thing was that his work was great! But he was so caught up in his own self-focused silo that he missed all the external clues.
What seems a little ridiculous is that not only do we individually create siloism, but we also systematize it in our organizations. Business hierarchies, org charts, project management strategies, and myopic preoccupation with task-oriented success all drive siloism. It permeates team culture and leads to poor communication and business failure – at least according to 86% of polled executives and employees.
Have you ever stopped to think about how silos affect you and the organizations you’ve been a part of?
Patrick Lencioni summarized his opinion when he said, “Silos … devastate organizations. They waste resources, kill productivity, and jeopardize achievement.”
He goes on to advise leaders to tear down silos. They hurt and destroy the life-giving synergy so necessary to growth, fulfillment, and joy.
To tear down something is to destroy it. It implies worthlessness and uselessness – hence, the need to get rid of it. Yet there was a time when silos served us. In fact, they were centers of synergy. Could they be again?
What if we could re-work our silos to be places where we foster connection and confidence?
The Star Mill in American Fork, Utah is home to Skipio. And they have done just that – quite literally to be exact. The building, a renovated mill that includes two silos, exists as living proof of the power of creating connection from within silos.
The silos are the heartbeat of Skipio. They include conference rooms where enthusiastic teams gather to trade talents, offer leadership and perspective, and use their strengths to make a difference.
The curved stairway inside, also an old silo, connects all parts of the building – and the business – together. People make connections in the three-story stairwell constantly. Interestingly, the stairwell connects the old part of the Mill to the new side. The teams freely work with one another in what most definitely feels and looks every bit like a team atmosphere.
It’s not just the architecture that’s different. If you ask anyone at Skipio, they’ll tell you that collaboration happens hourly from all team members in these silos. Skipio functions like a big family. The moment you step into the building you feel like you’re part of something unique where everyone has a place and truly belongs.
Skipio’s cutting-edge thinking not only leads the way in their industry, but it teaches the whole world that it’s possible to transcend traditional siloism. You can re-brand silos as the centers of synergy they once were – and they truly can be again.
This article was written by DeAnna Murphy and Nick Greer.
DeAnna Murphy is an employee engagement thought leader and popular author and speaker. Her organizational development company, People Acuity, an affiliate of Strengths Strategy, is in 34 countries and includes over 350 practitioners across the globe.