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What Are Silos (And Why Bust Them)

organizational consulting Jan 13, 2017
 

When I first joined Walt Disney World as an internal Organizational Development Consultant, I was assigned to Disney's Animal Kingdom. The park had just opened and while there were many things that were going well, one of their biggest challenges was to unravel some of the missteps that took place at opening. You see, the creative team at Walt Disney Imagineer had an amazing vision for the theme park and what it could become. However, the Imagineers did not report to the same leader as the operators who would eventually manage the park and the lack of coordination cost the company millions. Little things like including ample stroller parking at the park's signature attraction Kilimanjaro Safaris would have been caught if there was better communication between the creative and operating teams. It was for this reason that the team kicked of an initiative dedicated to enhancing the strategic partnering not just for the Animal Kingdom for the company overall. 

Since then, I have supported numerous clients on a variety of strategic partnering projects. I have come to realize that silos are not only to be expected but are also a position by-product of growth. However, silos don't resolve themselves without effort and intention. Therefore, silo-busting provides a unique opportunity for consultants to step in and offer a highly valuable consulting solutions.

Here's two things you can first do for your clients when (not if...but when) they start to experience the growing pains of silos:

  1. Help them fully understand why they have silos. Again, silos are not an indicator of something that is wrong with them. It is because they have grown to a size where they have to become intentional about inter-departmental coordination.
  2. Get them to quantify how much their silos are costing them. They won't be able to appreciate the results that comes from strategic partnering until they fully appreciate the costs. Silos are way more expensive than they realize. In my experience at Disney, when the creative engineers and the operations team did not communicate well up front and construction projects needed to be modified, it costs the company millions. When teams work at cross purposes, projects that are designed to improve the customer or employee experience take far longer and often go significantly over budget, which translates both to direct costs and indirect costs in the form of missed opportunities.

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