2007-5-25 Three Silos - 6-11-2007 750

A local law office has been growing the last couple of years slower than it had in the early days. Maybe it’s the economic climate causing the slowing growth. Maybe it’s the win percentage that’s gradually creeping down that is scaring off new clients.  Maybe it’s simply bad customer service. Whatever it is, it has to stop. Things can’t continue to decline or everyone in the firm will be out of a job.

The founding partner decides to take action. He goes out and finds a hungry outside salesmen that will bring in new clients and head the firms marketing campaign.  The salesman is energetic and knows he has to be because his pay incentives are set up as a commission for each new client he brings in.

The founding partner is thrilled after the introduction of the salesman to the rest of the partners because everyone gets along so well.  “This is going to work out great and do wonders for our business”, he thinks to himself.

Sure enough the salesman begins to bring in new clients, one after the other.  All the lawyers are getting more business than they’ve ever had before. Business is great. A few months go by and the salesman walks in his office and sits down first think in the morning.

“Here is my letter of resignation,” the young man says.

“What? You’re quitting? Why?” The senior partner asks.

“It’s too much office politics for me. The lawyers won’t accept any of the business I bring in because they are afraid it they won’t win and it will lower their winning percentage, I can’t get the accounts to process any of my work because they don’t won’t to get behind on their daily quotas that are so important to them, and I’m just tired of the fighting. ”

“I’ve noticed a few little spats between a few of you but that’s no reason to leave. Office turf wars develop in every job,” the partner pleaded.

“I know but life is too short to be unhappy and I don’t see it changing any time soon”, the young salesman said regretfully as he left the office.


This situation plays out every day.   Silos are built in the work environment and ruin organizations from the top to the very bottom.

are departmental politics, infighting, turf wars, and divisional lack of cooperation that create barriers between departments and even unhealthy rivalry.

Employees notice their coworkers in other departments repeatedly moving in different directions, they begin to wonder why they aren’t on the same page.  Overtime their confusion becomes disappointment, which breeds into resentment and eventually hostility.  The worst thing is they start to work against other departments on purpose.

Leaders also get frustrated with the silo mentality but usually blame it on the immaturity of childish employees who just refuse to work with one another.  The truth is most people have a deep down desire to work well with everyone because they feel the daily pain of departmental politics and are the ones left to fight unwinnable and bloody battles.

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6 thoughts on “Silos

  1. Rajiv says:

    I first came across silos as a metallurgist. I never thouught that they would dominate my working life

  2. […] The term has also been picked up in leadership and organizational studies, and this post on “Silos” by Cranston Holden does a good job of explaining more about them. According to Cranston, […]

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