Read and Learn: Silos, Politics and Turf Wars

Even though I heard Patrick Lencioni speak at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit last fall and was very impressed by him, I didn’t put two and two together when I first started reading his newest book, Silos, Politics and Turf Wars, for a campus book discussion. It wasn’t until I opened up the back cover that I thought Hey, I recognize this guy. At that point, I knew it was going to be a worthwhile read.

In Silos, Politics and Turf Wars, Lencioni spends 170 pages building a narrative that draws the reader in and frames his argument. Fictional character Jude leaves his job at a large corporation and sets out to make it as a consultant. His first handful of clients is a diverse bunch, and it’s crucial that he quickly figure out what it is that he can contribute to their unique business environments. You’ll have to read the book to find out the rest of the narrative!

The last 40 pages of the book transition to a more familiar business book structure. Lencioni posits that conquering organizational silos is the best way he can help to develop healthy leadership teams and, therefore, healthy businesses

His model for addressing silos is to rally the leadership team around a thematic goal and several sub-objectives over a fairly short period of time – anywhere from a month for a startup company to a year in an academic environment. Although one person on the leadership team may be more familiar with a particular sub-objective, it’s the entire leadership team’s responsibility to accomplish the thematic goal. Each leadership team member must carry the thematic goal battle cry back to his or her unit so that the entire organization moves toward the shared goal together.

“The thematic goal is not a number, and it is not even specifically measurable. It is a general statement of a desired accomplishment. It requires a verb, because it rallies people to do something. Improve, reduce, increase, grow, change, establish, eliminate, accelerate,” he writes.

This book is a must-read for anyone in a leadership position. Even if your work environment isn’t a Microsoft or a Google, most medium and large organizations – and even some small ones – contain silos and would be wise to test and adopt Lencioni’s approach.