Friday, July 27, 2007

Book Report: Silos, Politics and Turf Wars

While I was on the plane to Zurich, I had the chance to read Silos, Politics and Turf Wars: A Leadership Fable About Destroying the Barriers That Turn Colleagues Into Competitors by Patrick Lencioni.

Here is an online review I found about the book.
Here is an interview with the author that I found interesting.

My Report

I found the book to be generally easy to read and enjoyable. The author's premise is very simple:

People forget their titles and work together when there is a crisis. Why can't they operate like that everyday?

Speaking about the Emergency Room at the hospital: "... noone with a heart and brain would even think of bitching about departmental stuff while someone is lying there bleeding right in front of them. Emergencies tend to do that to people."

Many companies (and our government) face the problem where internal groups work against each other. These groups get into "US" and "THEM" types of attitudes. The author discusses different groups in a fictional hotel (front desk vs. cleaning crew), hospital (doctors vs. nurses) as well as several other examples.

How do you fix it? That is what the book is about. The author dissects why it takes an emergency situation for people to work together. He then presents an approach to changing behavior without needing an emergency.

The approach is summarized as follows:

1. Create a thematic goal.

The author recommends getting the heads of the different "silos" together to have a discussion. Ask the question "What is the single most important accomplishment that this team needs to make in the next six or nine months?" People need to take off their functional hats and think of themselves as generic leaders.

The author's definition of a Thematic Goal is: a single, qualitative focus (or rallying cry) that is shared by the entire leadership team - and ultimately, by the entire organization - and that applies for only a specific time period.

Note that I bolded a few words of importance.

2. Create a set of defining objectives.

Get the heads to come up with a handful of things that need to happen to succeed at the goal. These objectives must again be qualitative and shared across the team. All leaders must assume accountability for all objectives. For example, if your team isn't directly responsible for customer service, and the front desk needs help, you should help them to improve it.

Note that when the thematic goal changes, so do the defining objectives.

3. Monitor the standard operating objectives.

These objective don't change from time to time. They are the standard metrics that the company monitors, such as revenue, profit, customer satisfaction and quality. Note that the SOO's shouldn't be the thematic goal nor the defining objectives.

4. Metrics should be established and monitored, based on steps 1-3. It is up to the leadership to ensure that the goals, objectives and metrics are visible in their staff meetings. The groups should each take ownership to ensure they are met.

A few other notes:
  • It took me only 3-4 hours to read the book. It is an easy read, with only 200 very light pages. The chapters are only 2-3 pages long. The book is written as a fable, to add some plot and meaning to the author's suggestions.
  • The book's message is very significant. Anyone in a position of leadership in any organization should read it. The value return versus the time spent is very high.

I hope you enjoy it.

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