When C-level managers want to initiate a major change, they hire consultants. The consultants drill into operations within each department or line of business. They are mining for process deficiencies that impact the rest of the organization. The trouble is, sometimes, middle managers are often totally unaware how their entrenched processes impact the rest of the organization.
I’m reminded of a time I was working on an accounts payable consulting project. A lower-level IT manager — who had some technical knowledge — was skeptical about the organizational change being implemented. He only wanted to know how this new technology would impact him and his department, rather than looking at how it would affect the company as a whole. The idea of cross collaboration between departments or business units just didn’t concern him.
Silo thinking is particularly endemic in the retail sector, where growth often comes through acquisition. Each newly acquired business wants to operate autonomously, despite the fact that greater efficiencies could be achieved through collaboration. This is exacerbated because organizations often stick with their own legacy software and equipment. When there are multiple legacy systems that all have the same job and often don’t play nice with one another, it results in inefficiencies that kill productivity.
What is clear to me time and time again is that anyone with true drive for change — whether sitting at headquarters or in remote offices — is interested in how change will make the entire organization better. But without transparency into other areas of the organization, many middle managers are unable to see how their business processes affect others. Without transparency, it’s impossible to see things holistically.