Departmental Inclusion

Last month, I wrote a blog about Departmental Inclusivity.  

The new Disney film Encanto was the inspiration for the article, which examines which characters are ‘in’ and ‘out’ of the family.  Little did Iknow at the time of writing that the song ‘We don’t talk about Bruno’ would be number 1 on the Official singles chart for five weeks.  I should not have been surprised.  My daughters have been persistently asking Alexa to play the Encanto soundtrack at every opportunity they can take.

Regarding departmental inclusion (or exclusion), here at ndc, we are conducting research into Organisational Inclusion & Diversity. We asked on Linkedin,

“In all the organisations you have worked in, have there been any departments you felt were treated as the‘odd relative at the table?’ Was this fair and why did it happen?”

The results are in

Yes         73%

No          27%

This result was not a surprise to us.  

The similar dynamics which occur on the family level are repeated systemically within organisations.

From the comments, there were several different ‘odd relative’ department dynamics depending on the organisation

“The accounts department were seen as theblockers to sales and fun things”

·       “The maintenance team - they know so much about the client and the product however most other teams sideline them.”

·       “A complete disconnect between sales and marketing”

·       “Non-client facing departments were treated with a less friendly hand than the client facing divisions. Sort of a"jocks" vs "math geeks" situation.”

·       “Regarding the odd duck - it's typically beenwhenever HR or Legal are involved in change management.”

Interestingly,management consultants describe a silo as a “system, process, department etc.,that operates in isolation from others”. But as Gillian Tett says in her book  “The Silo Effect”, silos can be a state of mind, existing in our minds and social groups too.  Silos breed tribalism and can go hand in hand with tunnel vision.

‘Scapegoating’, ‘blame’ and ‘silo-thinking’ have been around since organisations started to structure themselves on a divisional basis, a separation of specialisms.  Gillian Tett cites the example of the emergency response to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in 2001. Each department (fire, police and health) were so independent that they discovered their radios and walkie talkies could not tune in to the same communication channels.

The paradox is that while the world is increasingly interlinked, the way we organise ourselves is divided by departments that often fail to communicate with each other.  Professions are becoming increasingly specialised due to rapidly changing technology and increased regulatory requirements.

Silo-busting has taken many forms in organisations, frommatrix structures to more recent holacracy structures.

But how far are the silo-structures in your organisation preventing growth, innovation and engagement?

We need to talk about Bruno!

Written by:
Matt Burdock

Executive Coaching, Culture Measurement, Leadership Development.

March 7, 2022