Romanticizing the path from being alone to being connected is a Hollywood plotline staple. It’s uplifting to watch someone who had given up on life, finding love or being valued turn the corner, with the help of someone or some people, and transform into an involved member of a relationship and/or of society. In real life, it hardly happens that way.
After being a recluse of decades, William Forrester has an encounter with Jamal Wallace that brings him out of “life retirement.” (Finding Forrester, 2000). The diabolic belief that we can break through a siloed way of life with just a touch of love is ludicrous. Most people need illumination to the path out of their own private Idaho. It doesn’t just happen.
In our organizations, we sit in silos despite our denial of such a reality. We “collaborate” on tasks, but not as much on ideology and strategy. We see marketing, IT and human resources work on a project plan together for the implementation of some digital transformation initiative, but do we see them truly operate in a holistic, strategic approach beyond this project? The project is good, for sure, to start opening doors for communication and understanding; however, the oft-happening truth is that those in-roads are cutoff once the project is completed.
Part of the issue is paranoia. Too many of us still believe that our efforts are best spent jockeying for position and relevance in our organizations. We can’t let others in without questions being asked about duties, scope and plans. To answer those questions would mean potential exposure to our thinking and our approach. Uh oh.
Rather, we should want those questions asked. Improvement is tied closely to transparency. And true collaboration is more than just a project; it’s a strategic approach to organizational development and effectiveness. It takes more than just a post-project congratulatory luncheon to get people to work at this level. It’s a leadership-influenced driver. Does your executive team understand how they’re going to get where their strategic road map shows them going? The chart is pretty, but it’s not a wall-breaker to silos. What will penetrate those walls permanently?
Typically, part of the answer lies in the people in those positions. There is a capability quotient to this and knowing to what degree your people can handle it is vital. Some organizations spend years trying to get managers to grow into proactive, strategic roles. Some people cannot do it. Drop the idealism of rescue. Not everyone will exit William Forrester’s apartment. Some will step into the hallway for a brief time, but then retreat back. Often, leadership will take those hallway moments as a sign that someone can be redeemed fully; that is not so.
Assessment should not be overlooked here, but it usually is. It seems wasteful of resources. And yet, think of it this way, when you want to consistently change habits, you have to seek support to get out of that mode of thinking and behavior. We see this in physical wellness, in financial planning, in dealing with emotional trauma…why would this behavioral and psychological change be any different? Encouragement towards real, effectual transformation should be the goal. Once this is committed to, you will see that some will not have the desire or stamina to join in with you.
Organizational health requires the removal of silos which are based upon fear, power and unchecked behavior. Our companies are meant for something greater, not just idealistically, but competitively. Knock on Forrester’s door and find out whether he’s ready to exit. Ask him/her. Point blank.