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The Emperor Has No Teamwork

The Emperor Has No Teamwork

November 19, 2013 — We noticed the survey results, above, in today’s Smartbrief on Leadership. They stood out mainly because they are at such odds with what people in silos tend to say about the level of cross-silo collaboration. The very fact that the survey refers to primary workgroups as silos belies these results.

We suspect the survey respondents are leaders who (as is often the case) don’t see the silos beneath them. If 65% of teams actually worked well across silos (as the results above claim), Pat Lencioni’s Table Group would have to come up with a different business model, because no one would need to hire them, or read his books.

In our experience, leaders tend to overestimate the level of teamwork across silos beneath them, while their people in the silos, dealing with the dysfunction every day, see it all too clearly and yearn for leadership to correct it. Recently, we facilitated a Five Dysfunctions of a Team workshop for an organization, as part of which we asked the attendees to identify one thing that would most prevent their implementing the day’s learning. Almost unanimously, they said that their bosses had siloed, conflicting agendas that made true teamwork practically impossible (and was that ever interesting feedback to report!). The people at this organization who really needed to go through and adopt the material weren’t the team that did, but rather their bosses who sent them instead.

A quick look at an organization’s performance plans and reward system, coupled with some simple MBWA, would tell most leaders a story different from what they, often mistakenly, believe. Eliminating silos isn’t necessarily hard, but it requires the proper structuring of goals and rewards, the right employee screening (especially of leaders), and dedicated executive leadership – in other words, focusing on your people. Unfortunately, all too often executives “don’t have time” for this work, because they are too busy devising intricate strategies the success of which, ironically, tends to require the very level of cross-functional alignment they lack.

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