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  • Mike Donoghue

It was the right plan but...

Updated: Jan 26

"Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face." so said Mike Tyson. Standing in the ring alone doesn't allow much time to consult with your "team" to discuss the unforeseen and unexpected events that are coming at you thick and fast. Or to use a more recent sporting event When France are running tries in from all over the field against England (seven tries to one - oh the pain!!) and no one seemed to have an answer on the England Rugby side and no one seemed to be coming up with a back up plan you have to start thinking maybe this isn't a team but a group of individuals with their own agendas.

Why do plans fail? Assess the objectives look at the risks (both positive & negative) and resources required then lay out a plan (in England's case maybe have a plan "B" for a rainy day in "London Town") It could not be simpler! So if a plan works for one team then why cant the same or similar plan work for another team? I have an idea when it comes to delivering on these plans it may come down to the pesky non-quantifiable element "PEOPLE!!!", more specifically the myriad of teams within an organization designed to work together yet rather grow together to prevent change and progress. We know them as silos, and a common issue in many workplaces. These silos refer to the individual departments or teams that operate independently from one another, often with minimal collaboration or communication. While some may view silos as simply a structural issue, the consequences of siloed organizations can be severe, affecting the safety, productivity, and overall success of a business. A key finding of the Deep Water Horizon incident was,

"There were several cases of key decisions being made without complete information. The National Commission Report referred to these issues as “information compartmentalization”.

During the unexpected results from well testing, the rig crew did not seek advice or support from experts onshore. The guidance as to when offshore personnel should consult the onshore team was not clear (and we know from other disasters that there may be a reluctance to seek help from remote engineering teams)."

I mention this because, as an external auditor, I am often placed in the unique position of looking at different companies processes, systems and teams with fresh eyes. Functional teams whose role is to support the operation often fail to support the operation because they develop their own group think perceptions and respond accordingly. Operations teams also develop their own group think perceptions and create barriers to invitation, resulting in siloed teams.

The primary consequence of siloed organizations is the lack of communication and collaboration between departments. This lack of communication can lead to duplication of efforts, missed opportunities, and inefficient use of resources. For example, one department maybe required to roll out a new tool or process that could benefit other departments, but without communication and collaboration, the other departments may not even know the tool exists or the initiating department may not consider it there role to support the team- think compliance/enforcement versus coaching mentoring. The result is wasted resources and missed opportunities for innovation and growth. In addition to inefficiencies, siloed organizations can also have serious safety consequences. In industries such as energy resources and construction, the lack of communication and collaboration can lead to serious accidents and injuries. For example, a process safety/engineering department may implement a new risk management process without properly communicating the changes to the other departments, resulting in a dangerous situation that could have been avoided with proper communication and collaboration. Another consequence of siloed organizations is the lack of accountability. When departments operate independently, the resulting incident investigation looks to understand omissions, mistakes or failures. Without a shared understanding of the goals and objectives of the business as a whole, departments may focus solely on their individual goals, which can result in a lack of accountability and a failure to take ownership of issues. Moreover, siloed organizations can also negatively impact employee morale and job satisfaction. When departments do not collaborate, employees can feel disconnected from the rest of the organization and the mission of the business. This can lead to a lack of engagement and a feeling of disillusionment with the company. Furthermore, silos can also breed competition between departments, which can lead to a toxic work environment and a lack of cooperation.

So, what can businesses do to break down these silos and create a more collaborative, accountable, and productive workplace? First and foremost, businesses need to prioritize communication. This means creating an open and transparent culture that encourages collaboration and information-sharing. Managers and leaders need to model this behavior and set the tone for their teams. Next, businesses should consider implementing cross-functional teams. An interesting paradigm shift that has occurred frequently is that of switching from a Matrix organisation to an Asset (or Geographic/Divisional) Organization and back again numerous times. Asset teams consist of individuals from different disciplines who work together on collective projects or goals. This approach breaks down silos and encourages collaboration, and it can also foster innovation and creativity, however it takes time to develop the needed relationships and typically organizations switch back to a matrix configuration before the benefits can be achieved only to then change out leadership and revert back to an Asset organisation. The Matrix organisation promises so much however in my experience it creates more silos and a reduction in skilled practitioners within the organisation as more is attempted with less. Consider how many times when a decision has been made to move from one model to another the capacity and capability of the team make up is thoroughly evaluated. Businesses can also utilize technology to improve communication and collaboration. Collaboration tools such as Slack or Microsoft Teams can facilitate communication between departments, and project management tools can help teams coordinate and track their progress. Think Integrated Activity Planning where all the individual objectives of the organization are prioritized and resourced accordingly.

Finally, businesses should encourage a culture of accountability. This means setting clear expectations and goals for each department, as well as holding individuals and teams responsible for meeting those expectations. By creating a shared understanding of the company's goals and objectives, departments can work together towards a common purpose, resulting in greater accountability and collaboration, think Integrated Activity Planning. I mention this twice because the collaborative arts of planning and communication of needs along with a strong culture of accountability ( take a read of the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team if you haven't already) are really the foundations of every successful organization.

In conclusion, the consequences of siloed organizations can be severe, affecting safety, productivity, and employee morale. However, with a commitment to communication, collaboration, and accountability, businesses can break down these silos and create a safer, more productive, efficient, and successful workplaces.

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