One of the biggest complaints about working at Berkeley is the isolation that’s created in the numerous silos that are created between groups/departments/teams/people. Part of it is due to everyone just having so much of our own work to do, we don’t have time to think about everyone else’s work. Part of it is that we just don’t know what everyone else does nor do we realize how our work might be connected to their work.
As the campus becomes more integrated through the implementation of large scale systems and initiatives we’re starting to realize just how dependent we are on each other.
I wanted to share some of ways I try to break down silos to start a conversation on what all of you are doing as well.
- Understand your handoffs and downstreams and upstreams. When we work in silos, we will implement an efficiency solution that works great for us and our department without realizing that it creates problems to the people we hand off to. In the end, that’s not creating an efficient solution, that’s just pushing work to someone else which reinforces the silos. Reach out to the people and groups that are downstream (people who receive work from you) and those upstream (people who give you work) to understand what they need and why and what you need from them and why.
- If it’s no one’s fault, then maybe everyone is part of the answer. Because of belief in consensus decision making, ideas often get presented to a diverse number of groups and people who provide input into reshaping the ideas. In an ideal world it means that we are developing solutions that have greater use and buy in. But conversely may create a problem that no one is responsible for because all the pieces are fine the problem must be somewhere else. When that happens, it’s an issue of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts and getting to a solution will require bringing everyone to the table to hash it out.
- Ask, it’s just a question. Sometimes people don’t ask because they think the answer will be no, but if you don’t ask the answer is absolutely no. If you do ask, maybe the answer will be yes. Ask why do we do things this way. Ask if someone could help you improve the handoff. Ask how might you change your work to make it better for everyone.
- Listen, compromise, collaborate. Listen to what people have to say. Listen to what they truly need. Listen to what you and your team needs vs what’s nice to have. Reach out to others who may be experiencing similar issues and work on a collective solution that’s scalable to different areas. Communities of Practice are a great way to meet others doing similar work to yourself.
- What’s the ultimate outcome? What’s the shared goal? Some groups may be focused on customer service. Others may be focused on compliance. These shouldn’t be exclusive to each other. In the end, by helping the customer come into compliance is good for them and good for all of us. Understand not just what you’re trying to accomplish but what each person along the process is trying to accomplish.
- Go Bears! In the same way we root for all things Cal, it’s important to remember that each employee here is part of your team even if they’re not in the same unit or college. What can we do to be better team mates to each other? How do we support each other accomplish our individual goals to help support the ultimate goals of the University?
What do you do to break down silos?