General Motors and silos continue to be linked in the media.
And in our minds.
According to new GM CEO Mary Barra in her Congressional testimonies, the auto company’s managers operated in isolation, failing to connect and act on evidence that’s now been linked to fatal accidents. That, in the words of Harvard guru Ranjay Gulati, smacks of protectionist behavior, decision-making conflicts, and just general inside-out perspectives.
Sound like any business you know?
Regardless: In the mid-Aughts, after studying a number of different companies (e.g., GE Healthcare, Jones Lang LaSalle, Cisco, Starbucks), Gulati proffered his four-C solution to silo-busting:
- Coordination to share customer information and labor
- Cooperation, along with metrics, that will dethrone the current power structure
- Capability development, when customer-centric generalists also see a clear career pathway and
- Connection, or strategic alliances with other companies.
Later in the decade (or in this one), he holds up IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative as an example of a sword that demolishes silos, saying that values and concomitant images, symbols, and stories, will support the beginnings of a new culture.
There’s one ‘c’ he’s forgotten: Communications. A discipline that, better than any others inside companies, can explain, educate, and elucidate employees on ‘what customers want.’ A function that, almost automatically, delivers awareness and drives actions on behalf of the corporation. A mindset that will, either alone or in tandem with L&D/HR, establish parameters and ways in which an outside-in perspective reigns.
Ee-i-ee-i-oh, Mr. MacDonald.