Do corporate silos actually offer a company some benefits?
Well, yes, they can.
For the opportunity to talk about this issue, I offer my gratitude to BL Ochman. BL is the only person to ask me that question (the very first one she asked in her just-posted interview with me) regarding the concepts in my new book, The Integration Imperative.
Corporate silos result from a lack of or a barrier to organizational cooperation, communication and shared accountability between business units, functions and colleagues. They may cause lower go-to-market effectiveness, productivity and results.
Most business people fall prey to the knee-jerk reaction that silos are always bad, all the time. But in some ways they can, at least in their early stages, pull a company toward greater effectiveness. Don't we all know an "intrapreneur" who initiated a forward-thinking program that turned out to be a great idea for the whole firm? It's not always a terrible idea for management to encourage professionally passionate people to pilot new programs, right?
But when those special projects or initiatives turn into hardened processes, or can't easily be incorporated into most people's daily jobs, they become problematic. Consider the way Client Relationship Management (CRM) has affected so many professional service firms. What is actually a good idea -- a system that helps share and manage vital client information internally -- too often becomes a rigid process, under the purview of too few people, and less-than-helpful for too many. I'm sure many of us could name corporate initiatives that feel onerous and that impede the marketplace gains the firm could be making.
Instead, those new pilots or great ideas should be developed, from their inception, with their ultimate goal in mind: integration into everyone's function within the firm.