Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Silo Effect (Gillian Tett)

The Silo Effect by Gillian Tett is a smart, all-encompassing look at the corporate and government world's constant battles with itself around corporate culture.  Silos in the business world often refer to the attitude that is found in some organizations when departments or teams do not share information or knowledge with other parts of the same organization, which reduces efficiency and sometimes leads to the different teams competing with each other internally.  The Silo Effect has two key objectives in attempting to answer the questions of why silos arise and what can be done by us to master silos in our world before they master us.

Tett covers several examples of corporations and government organizations that either overcame or fell victim to the silo effect.  From the example of one large corporation that lost its way due to layers of bureaucracy to how one city changed the way different departments communicated with each other, the author weaves a narrative to show the importance of how corporate culture and human interaction both play a role in helping silos grow to unmanageable heights, hindering corporate performance as a result.  But that can be overcome through effective communication, corporate culture, and smart management.

The author argues that our modern world has made silos a major part of our life, going so far as to say that "we cannot live without silos in the modern world" and citing psychological and anthropological examples to back that point up.  She then goes on to say that while it is easier and even convenient for businesses to organize themselves into highly structured silos, there are missed opportunities for growth, missed risks as collaboration and communication suffer, and internal departments are loathe to share information and resources with each other, which leads to lower productivity and efficiency in the long run.  Without giving people some rope to be creative, to collaborate, to work outside of their norms, Tett argues that short-term gain does not yield long-term breakthrough impact.  Through her eight case studies that range from major cities to major corporations, she is able to make an effective case to prove her point.