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Book Review: Break The Barriers

Tett’s The Silo Effect is a must-read for corporate leaders; it is time to skip the motherhood and apple pie statements, and walk the talk on leveraging human potential and business bottom lines.

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The word silo is one of the most frequently abused terms in contemporary business lexicon; everyone from the functional chief, the ubiquitous HR head and the ever-garrulous elite members of the C-suite wants to dismantle it, with enough reason. Silos create hollow vacuums, rigid segregation and an impenetrable sacrosanct zone that leads to eventually splendid isolation of individuals and groups within an organisation, be it a corporate firm, a media entity or a political party. Ultimately, businesses fail because they are hamstrung by their inability to deliver the formidable power of the collective punch, the silo syndrome having enervated their positive energies besides depriving them of creative and strategic inputs. It may sound like a clichéd management case study we have heard before, but one that recurs regularly, leaving us with a sense of déjà vu. As Gillian Tett, Managing Editor, Financial Times writes in her latest The Silo Effect: Why Putting Everything In Place Isn’t Such A Bright Idea (Hachette), corporations have to move beyond providing mere cosmetic service to battle the gradually metastasising silo culture that imperceptibly overwhelms them. It can destroy well-structured business models and potential winners can end up being a lame duck. Tett’s research led to her find the debilitating impact of the silo syndrome in entities as varied as Microsoft, General Motors, BBC, BP and, hold your breath, the White House itself.

Tett provides a comprehensive set of corrective prescriptions to combat the silo syndrome; rotating staff between departments, relooking group pay and incentive structures that create conflict instead of collaboration with other groups not similarly rewarded, sharing the mounting corporate data more holistically, and challenging existing management classification systems that may have become obsolescent. Technology if effectively utilised can by itself become a good equaliser. As a scholar of anthropology, she emphasises the significance of cultural evolution and human habits that often hinder a free flowing workplace.

Tett covered the financial crisis triggered by the US mortgage defaults that busted Lehman Brothers and opened up a Pandora’s box, a catastrophic avalanche that led the world to the Great Recession in 2007-08. She points out that most of the highly rated investment banks, regulatory authorities and the big traders on Wall Street did not know what was going on in their own institutions. In many cases, the CEO themselves were blindsided, if not altogether clueless about the damaging repercussions of the rising bubble.

Tett’s The Silo Effect is a must-read for corporate leaders; it is time to skip the motherhood and apple pie statements, and walk the talk on leveraging human potential and business bottom lines.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Pallavi Jha

The author is MD & Chairperson of Dale Carnegie of India.

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