Breaking Up Silos is Hard to Do

I had to laugh at myself, when I heard a recent Rabbi sermon about being a better person by breaking out of your personal silo. Silo is a term we who have a career in supply chain/logistics hear a lot. In the supply chain, not on do you have to break out of your personal silo, you have to help others break their silo, when there are a lot of incentives not to.

Company and organizational functional activities are silos and tend to focus on themselves. The focus natural enough is on the success of the internal silo. Along comes supply chain people, whose ideas and whizz-bang software say that if we do such and such which might sub-optimize a given silo, the organization would be better off. A typical example might be a national contract with truck service provider. Overall it might save 5% to the company and provide better service to our customers which would likely increase sales. But sales district A might see their individual lanes cost more and their profits drop. There goes their yearly bonus.

In such situations , supply chain management in order for change to successful occur should understand the following:

  • Listen to those affected by change. How will it success of their business? How will if affect them personally. By listening, major obstacles can be avoided and buy to the change is possible.
  • Think metrics of the organization will respond to the change.  If the metrics do not catch the advantage of the change, the change will not happen.
  • Learn what the metrics the locals have which may or may not be the same as the organization.  How will change effect the silo metrics? Do incentives need change
  • Thin about the educational and training component of the change. What do people need to know about the change to make it happen? How can they get information on questions, obstacles or to make suggestions.
  • Does the current corporate culture work for or against the change? If a corporate culture is necessary, training needs to be done.

People and their silos are resistant to change. But well managed change with significant listening component can overcome this resistance.


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