I was recently working on a recommendation for a client, specific to a process improvement we were looking to implement. This suggestion had been made to the client half a dozen times and had, outside of agreeable nods, gained minimal traction. I felt myself playing a bit of metaphorical pinball, bumping against the silos within the clients corporate culture (nothing new here), and realized if a bridge was to be made between the silos, I would need to build that bridge.
I contacted a senior-level Project Manager (PM) who served a critical role in the process we were evaluating. This person, within the initial discussion, showed to be incredibly passionate in their role and truly dedicated to the success of that role. I explained the suggestions we were making, and looked for input.
What was given as response was disappointing.
This person, who was just seconds ago a shining example of attitude and aptitude, began explaining their role with more focus on what they didn’t do than what they did, drawing those silo boundaries as fast as they could. Their intent still seemed to be good, but when asked to step into a part of the larger and more comprehensive discussion, this person collapsed. I realized this was a corporate culture issue. This person may have been naturally inclined to silo themselves, but I am naturally inclined to sleep in and start my day around 10am. I understand natural inclination is not always the point.
I shouldn’t have been surprised, as silo’d organizations are common, and all I was seeing was the underlying symptom being expressed to me out loud.
I re-framed the questions, and changed tactics. I asked the PM how I might help enhance their role, by enhancing how that role handed off to the next team. There was an almost audible click, and suggestions started flowing. The most intriguing response: “I’d like know how that’s done, before it gets handed back to my team.”
This PM seemed excited, because they stepped out of their individual role, and saw that their role was a puzzle piece. They saw a glimpse of something that could be a bigger picture, made of all the other puzzle pieces, relying so much more on not just their own piece but how their piece fits within the next.
No one had ever seemed to harness the most powerful source for process improvement this PM had at their disposal…curiosity.