As my work on Deconstructing Silos moves ahead, I’ll share a step-wise build of the various components, with a bit of narrative to explain my thought process.
I am starting w/ a basic Stock & Flow diagram from Systems Thinking (ST) practice, as described by leading change thinkers like Peter Senge and Donella Meadows. For those unfamiliar with the basic symbols used, here’s a brief legend. I’ll add a link to an annotated ST Stock & Flow 101 Guide shortly.
It’s important to note that all silos are not bad. The model is useful in manufacturing and technology functions where scale and/or quality are critical.
Problems are introduced when the model is applied without care or design, and key stabilizing factors (like information or feedback) are omitted.
I am looking for feedback on the thoroughness and usefullness of the model, so please contact me directly if you have specific input. Let’s connect via LinkedIn so that we can stay in touch regarding versions, citations, and the like.
In the first build, Figure 1, Core Silo (Actors), you can see the core actors – MANAGEMENT and SMEs – as well as the primary flows among them. Managers hold BUDGET and AUTHORITY. Both sets of actors have some varying levels of INFORMATION (which I generally define as ‘Organizational Context: Where do we fit? How are we doing? What are the gaps?’) and TRUST. This diagram is the foundation, at the core of the model.
In the next build, Figure 2, Full Silo (Actors), I add the external influences of executive LEADERSHIP, as well as 2-n OTHER SILOS. While these actors are not directly part of the silo, activity that takes place among these other actor groups can have a definite impact on silo function, and the key flows should be tracked.
In the next view, Figure 3, Core SME (Operational), I shift focus to the key elements of productive, efficient work that silo-based teams typically focus on, including STABILITY, QUALITY and PROCESS. I’ve also included a BACKLOG stock to reflect accumulation of unfinished work, and important factor in silo’d teams that experience slow-downs of output.
In the next view, Figure 4, Core Silo (Operational), detail of Figures 2 and 3 are blended, to show what happens when all the core forces are in play. Note the Perceived Risk flows that serve to constrain TRUST for both MANAGEMENT and SMEs. –
In the next view, Figure 5, Culture Factors, the influences of Silo Culture are shown, reflecting the well-established principles of F.W. Taylor, often known as scientific management. Note that KNOWLEDGE in this model only exists at the MANAGEMENT level, and that TRUST for the SME is limited to being well treated. These factors are generally forgotten in modern Silo-based solutions, but the shift has left its mark on a system that has grown dysfunctional, over time.
In the first full build, Figure 6, Silo Full View, all elements of the SILO are fully represented, with some typical dysfunctions shown in red. Note that most of the structural elements of CULTURE influence continue to exert influence in a silo-based structure, even though the KNOWLEDGE base has shifted to the SME, and the factors driving TRUST have grown more involved.
In the final full build, Figure 7, Silo Fully Constrained, the extreme case of silo-based gridlock or calcification is shown, with multiple constrained flows and critical stocks. This is the worst case scenarios for silo-based organizations that are no longer productive.
Again, please reach out if you have input. I hope this model proves useful, but in any case, I am certain it can be improved with further iteration. With that said, I will continue focus on keeping the model simple, so as to main it’s commercial usefulness.
In upcoming posts I will introduce some key leverage points, and discuss factors that influence their viability.
Images and concepts presented here may be used with full citation, with prior permission only.
Updates will be published periodically here, as they are vetted by others and applied.
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Chris Jones | Charlotte NC US