Based in Chicago, Omerisms is a blog by Omer Abdullah. His posts explore Ideas, perspectives and points of view across business, sales, marketing, life and (sometimes) football (the real kind).

Those Silos in your Head...

Those Silos in your Head...

Photo credit to  Doc Searls

Photo credit to Doc Searls

The great thing about getting a general business education is that it pushes you to look at business issues from multiple angles. Strategy, Marketing, Finance, Operations, Organizational Behavior, Human Resources, etc. That's valuable. No business question is uni-dimensional - either in its creation, evolution or solution - and so a multi-dimensional view is essential.

We intuitively understand this. Practically, though, we usually have some work to do.

Sales wants to close the deal, but is hesitant to incorporate all of the Operations' concerns because it might kill the deal. Operations wants to deliver quality consistently, but is wary of over-promising and under-delivering.

Engineering wants to build a strong, quality product that meets its functional requirements. The Design team, though, is constraining the functional parameters of their 'ideal' product, given consumer preferences and behaviors when it comes to the usability of the final product.

Marketing wants to invest in that publicity opportunity as it's critical to pushing the brand forward, but Finance is concerned about the specific, measurable ROI of spending that kind of money.

Familiar situations, taking place in offices across the world.  For-Profit, Not-For-Profit. Corporate, Professional Services, Academic, Government or otherwise.

The solution, of course, is not to eliminate these tensions.

It isn't just the fact that this isn't possible - everyone has personal agendas, biases, perspectives - and I don't simply mean that in a negative sense. People often have good reasons for believing what they do, and why X or Y cannot happen. And, in their own way, they are right. (Which also doesn't mean you're not.)

What's more, eliminating these tensions isn't, frankly, even desirable. It's these tensions that force the push and pull that leads to real results. That lead to the creation of great products, great teams and great organizations. Beyond the business world, it's these tensions that lead to the creation of great music, great films and great performances. Great art, in any sphere of life.

The point is not to eliminate, but to resolve. Not acquiesce. Resolve. 

There's many ways to attack this problem. Among the most important: incentives.

You can think of this as 'goals' from one angle, and what we might more traditionally call 'incentives' from another. But in my book, they are all incentives.  Incentives that you must put in place to ensure we are all in sync: Joint responsibilities; Mutually-dependent outcomes; Personal investment in the implications; Skin in the game.

When teams are given common, structured goals (timelines, performance parameters, etc.) and are held jointly accountable, things get done. When the team is convinced of the 'Why' this needs to get done right, things get done.

That will only happen when - and I hate to use this cliche - leadership is aligned. Yes, I know that sounds like management buzzword bullshit, but in this instance, it's true. All of the leaders need to be in sync. No taking sides. No biases. Not in public, not in the conference room at the back, 'just between you and me'. When they 'exhibit' - not just say - the right messages, people believe it. They buy it. They find a way to do it.

Things get done. 

Beyond leadership, the mechanics of engagement must be in sync at the team level. How will we be recognized collectively? What is our collective benefit? Explicitly, how will we all be impacted if this doesn't work out? Answering these questions unambiguously forces us to work together. It aligns our thinking. It kills the silos. Shit gets done.

(Post-Note #1: When I said incentives, note that I didn't just mean economic. That can help and, yes, it has its place. But it isn't always the solution. Money doesn't change your beliefs. Money doesn't give you empathy. Money doesn't change hearts and minds. Money certainly doesn't buy long term loyalty. If you think it does, you're bullshitting yourself. Don't bullshit yourself.)

(Post-Note #2: It's definitely not about getting along, it's about resolution. I mean, if Eddie and Dave got along perfectly, would we have ever had this?)

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