Internal Silo-Busting

After reading and writing about Gillian Tett's The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers, I got to thinking about the internal silos we all carry with us.

Gillian does mention how not revisiting classifications can lead to disasters such as the financial meltdown of 2008, but don't we all have our own labels? When was the last time you revisited what you think of yourself and your strengths?

I'm probably unusual in the amount of time I spend thinking about this and in all the personality tests I take to shed more light on this, but even I have personal classifications (aka, internal silos) I probably need to bust out of. 

The one that comes to mind is "I'm not a salesperson."

I'm not, really, but if you've read Daniel Pink's To Sell Is Human, than you understand that we all are. And I've actually held a business development role which I enjoyed more than I expected to and did far better at than I expected to. So perhaps I'm not the traditional type of salesperson that can sell just anything...but that does not mean that I cannot sell. 

And perhaps that silo has caused me to overlook opportunities in the past. Just today an opportunity to bust this silo came up and I'm considering considering a step in the right direction but more work is needed.

There is of course a fine line between internal silo-busting and forgetting one's strengths, so perhaps the answer is to widen those classifications or look at the circumstances in broader terms. Perhaps one needs to carefully weigh all the pros and cons to see if an opportunity is a bad fit or an internal silo.

Do you have internal silos that need to be busted so that you can reframe how you see yourself?

Review: Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual

Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual by David Burkus
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

David Burkus, in the afterword to his great book Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual, shares this quote from one of his interviewees: "Great leaders don't innovate the product, they innovate the factory!" And although this is definitely one of the traits shared by the leaders David profiled, I believe there is another, more critical underlying theme: trust.

David has outlined various practices that need to be upended in the new age of "knowledge workers" since as he points out, many of the old management practices were created for factory workers. Some of these practices are putting customers first, standard vacation policies, keeping salaries secret, noncompetes, performance appraisals, and inflexible org charts.

Doing away with these practices lead to more successful companies because in doing so, the leaders indicate that they trust their employees.

If you hire the right people, pay them fairly, treat them right and give them the tools and resources to succeed, you don't need to dictate how they work, how much time they can take off, or many other things that have become SOP in most companies.

This book is a must-read for anyone who manages or leads since it's a long-needed wake-up call and guide how to truly engage your staff and let them do their best work for you and your customers.

Resource Tip: Tab Snooze

If you're like me, you often have many tabs open since you're either toggling between all of them or opening interesting links as they come up. And given that they hog computer memory and become annoying, you may have tried various methods and tools to get around this.

You can save sessions. You can send links to your email and/or send them to Pocket or one of its competitors. You can also copy and paste urls to another page.

But now there's a far easier and more seamless method that allows you to address all of this with one extension: Tab Snooze.

As its name implies, you can actually snooze a tab. When you're on a given tab, just hit the moon in your Chrome extensions bar, select when it will reappear, and watch it disappear.

You can also choose the check box at the bottom of the pop-up to get a to-do tab. This tab only has room for one to-do item and can be snoozed to reappear when you'll have time to tackle it...or re-snoozed until you actually get it done.

Tab Snooze is only available on Chrome for now (both web and phone/tablet versions), but you can sign-up to be notified when it will be available on other browsers.

I now snooze everything but my Google Inbox tab since that's the only one I want open all the time. It's made my Chrome faster and me less distracted by the extra open tabs. 

Tab Snooze is also great for occasionally checking-in on things (e.g., a job board or eBay auction).

If you decide to try the extension out, please let me know what you think and if you've discovered other ways to use it.

Hyper-Efficiency Leads to Silos?

You've probably heard someone talking about breaking down silos. I actually used the term myself recently so picked-up Gillian Tett's The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers

Silos are what happens when groups within companies, either due to specialization or a bad culture, do not share or communicate with other groups. This leads to problems such as the financial meltdown of 2008 and Sony's demise. I won't go into the details (nor can I do it the justice Gillian did), but her stories on how silos lead to these and other problems is riveting reading.

The first half of the book describes these companies and how internal silos lead to their problems; the second half explains how a few companies are actively fighting the creation of silos. Facebook is an example of the latter, as is an experiment successfully run in a Chicago police station to predict and thereby lower their increasing murder rate.

At the heart of these silo-busting experiments is structuring the organization, the pay, and the physical space so that people are encouraged to collaborate. Another common theme is that by sharing data across groups not only will redundancy and internal competition be eliminated, but surprising patterns may be discovered when all the data is reviewed as a whole. 

Gillian ends the book acknowledging that in a world that is becoming more complex and specialized, and where everyone is expected to become more efficient, silo-busting may seem contrarian. She argues that although spending time talking to people and ensuring data is shared may not seem to be an effective use of time, it is well worth avoiding the potential troubles that come along with silos.

What this means for all of us is that in addition to doing your job well, it is equally important to build relationships with peers in other groups and in other functions. Efficiency and effectiveness can only get you so far, but collaboration and communication are well worth the effort. You never know what a conversation will lead to or what idea it can inspire, nor what others are working on that could be of benefit to your group.

Does your company have silos? How can you ensure a more healthy sharing of information?

Review: We-Commerce: How to Create, Collaborate, and Succeed in the Sharing Economy

We-Commerce: How to Create, Collaborate, and Succeed in the Sharing Economy We-Commerce: How to Create, Collaborate, and Succeed in the Sharing Economy by Billee Howard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you've ever wondered why some companies inspire loyalty and others do not, or why some messages just go viral, then read Billee Howard's We-Commerce: How to Create, Collaborate, and Succeed in the Sharing Economy.

Billee, an executive brand and communications consultant, noticed that commerce had shifted from a "me" focus (which was brought on by the industrial revolution) to a "we" focus. She gives us ten areas of how to apply this, with many rules, examples, and summaries to bring her points home. And unlike most business books that only bring you examples from other companies in one or two segments, Billee's examples are across industries, with companies of different sizes, and sometimes from nature and other religions.

A very informative and useful read with lots of entertaining examples.

New Occasional Feature: Resource Tips

As you may have deduced from some of my writing, I love all things to do with productivity, efficiency, and streamlining. It's one of the reasons my side business, Your Resource Coach, is about optimizing your three most important resources: people, processes, and time.

It's also why I love finding new useful apps and other resource hacks, so going forward I'll occasionally share a resource tip or productivity app. After all, making the most of your limited resources is business common sense, isn't it?

I'll start this feature by sharing a list of apps I compiled for an event I ran for and that was co-sponsored by The Women's Media Group.

You can access that list via Dropbox at

And if I've missed your favorite app, please share it in the comment section or by sending me a message.

Review: Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business

Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business by Nancy Lublin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nancy Lublin's book is one of the best business books I've read in a while. Not only was it very readable (and even funny at times), but you learn so much: it's practically a mini-MBA in itself!

The premise of the book is that that for-profit companies could learn a thing or two from not-for-profits who make do with "zilch" budget, resources, etc, yet are able to motivate staff, innovate, achieve goals, and really make a difference despite these inherent limitations.

Nancy likes the number 11 (which correlates with aiming for 110%), so she touches on 11 key areas and ends each with 11 questions to help for-profits apply them. Although all the sections were super-informative and practical, I really enjoyed the ones on staff, storytelling, and finance. The last one touched on how you can use creative bartering of inventory, services, and even staff when budgets are tight, something, as Nancy points out, for-profits probably have never thought of.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who needs to succeed in business, whether it's a for-profit or not-for-profit, since Nancy and the other not-for-profit CEOs she interviewed will show you how.