Breaking down Silos
The recent conferences I’ve attended, have focused on a common topic, the polarizing and destructive effect of school districts operating in independent silos. In one session, I observed a lot of head nods, smiling, and a universal acknowledgement that to some varying degree, we’ve all have been part of the problem and hopefully can be part of the solution. After some internal reflection, and group discussions, it was evident that reducing and eventually eliminating silos was a priority and we needed to act and initiate the process to help our districts move in the right direction.
The Business Dictionary (2017) defines Silo Mentality as, “a mindset present in some companies when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. This type of mentality will reduce the efficiency of the overall operation, reduce moral, and may contribute to the demise of a productive culture.” Many districts affirmed that the silo mentality led to missed deadlines, a lack of time and funding resources; and were facing cost overruns and sunk cost when trying to implement complex instructional initiatives that rely on technology.
Silos are insulated discussions and decisions that don’t capitalize the power of effective communication and collaboration. Departments, within a K12 organization, may rarely seek input or another perspective related to their initiative. I don’t think it’s a malicious or purposeful action but it reflects a cultural pattern of “it’s my project, I don’t need your help, and we’re doing whatever it takes to get it done”. A strained organizational climate and culture tends to create and perpetuate an environment where information is not shared because at any moment, your initiative could lose funding, be held for additional review and analysis, or get pushed down the priority scale.
It’s not very difficult to understand why there are so many barriers and obstacles to eliminate silos. At seminars, conferences, professional development, and district meetings we are inundated with information about the positive power and benefits of collaboration. We discuss, interpret, and get excited about the new possibilities given to us and the positive effect it will have on our district. Breaking down silos is arduous work! No different than going to the gym to get in shape; breaking down silos takes relentless dedication and patience. What other choice do we have? Initiating positive communication is an effective first step in developing trust, a safe environment for communication, and the collaboration required to improve organizational climate and culture.
Dr. Rich Contartesi
Founder and CEO K12aaS