This article was originally posted on CIO magazine.
In an era of unprecedented change, there is broad agreement that problem-solving, critical thinking and adaptability skills are more important to the IT industry than they have ever been. So why is it, if the great majority of job candidates can demonstrate these skills, that organisations are still relatively slow to adapt? The answer is one of scale.
Releasing The Skills From The Box
It is all too common for staff to collaborate only within their teams. When people have little or no interaction with others outside the walls of their silo, the organisation is wasting powerful resources. The adaptive organisation allows staff to express these skills in a “big picture” way – across departments, across different business units – and even across suppliers. When this happens, we start to see the power of real collaboration, problem-solving and critical thinking.
The Problem Is Not The People – It Is The Organisation Itself
The biggest problem with the silo mentality is not about what happens within silos or departments. The specialisms within the silos are important to the operation of the business, but this does not mean that conversations should be locked within the silo. It is vital to address what happens – or does not happen – in the gap between the silos.
This is the gap that customers usually end up falling into and from which they need rescuing. Thus, it is vital to have systems and job roles designed to provide business information from outside, and also to identify and address key inter-department issues.
Reorganising The Collaborative Model
To address the “silo gap,” organisations need to ask themselves some key questions. How do we collaborate end-to-end – in the horizontal, and in the vertical? How do we create the opportunities for communication in these channels?
The solution is to create a different collaboration model which enables the organisation to address organisational constraints so that it can move quickly to change whatever is needed, when it is needed.
Collaboration is about everyone knowing how everything fits together. To achieve it, there must be a process of dialogue where people from different departments learn about each other’s key challenges. This kind of interdepartmental understanding enables people to do their jobs more effectively. And when something goes wrong, it gives them a network outside their area to contact immediately.
Grow Your Own: Why Recruit What You Already Have?
The adaptive organisation makes full use of the problem-solving, critical thinking resources within its existing workforce. Staff – including top managers - not only think outside the box, but they are aware of what is outside the box, so they can work outside it too. The more minds this organisation brings together, the greater its problem-solving power. Put another way: release the potential of your people and they will realise the potential of your business. Why look to recruit collaborative problem solvers when you already have them in your organisation?
The 3 Steps True Collaboration:
1. Identify & Understand The Fragmentation
Managers identify and address inter-departmental misalignment of goals and targets. How is what we are doing inhibiting the way we drive products and services to customers?
2. Enable Work “Outside The Box”
People begin to see what is outside their boxes and they develop an intimate appreciation of what others are doing and how it is part of the big picture.
3. Work Outside The Box
Managers encourage their staff to work upstream and down, and horizontally between departments, with vast improvements to their own and others’ effectiveness.
When staff are made to work within their own boxes, they have little chance to engage in true collaboration. They know very little about other parts of the business and how they operate, and can only use their skills in myopic ways. This is not what makes an adaptive business. In today’s fast-paced environment, the whole organisation has to understand and shift. The challenge is for management to “let go” a little and allow people to work “outside the box” while still trusting them and still maintaining control.