Uncooperative Teams: How to Dismantle Them

Silos grow in their destructiveness when senior executives are not aware of how rampant they are in the organization, or else they choose to look the other way in hopes that the problem will go away on its own. Perhaps most damaging is the manager who encourages silos in the belief that they will spur workforce productivity or benefit the organization in some way. Once you’ve identified the 10 telltale signs of uncooperative teams, you can take steps to dismantle them.

Here’s an example of how silos can lead to poor decision-making. Let’s look at a large organization with more than 10,000 employees whose CIO has been in the job for four years. There are five direct reports in a matrix organization built around internal client groups, development, support and service.

The CIO meets with the team infrequently– perhaps once every six to eight weeks. Some significant layoffs have occurred over the past three years, so resources are slim. The direct reports meet without the CIO once a month, at the CIO’s request, and he thinks this is enough to enable teamwork.

The five direct reports would all like the CIO’s job one day, but the CIO has given no indication that anyone is being considered. Instead, he tacitly encourages internal competition. Now that resources are at a premium, there is a constant jockeying for people and budget. Each direct report meets with the CIO individually and pleads his or her case.

The CIO doesn’t respond to any of them, instead encouraging them to resolve it among themselves. The CIO has pet projects, based in part on the preferences of the president, and these get a boost in resources. Instead of letting everyone know how resources are being allocated, the CIO makes decisions in private and does not openly discuss the rationale.

Because of this, the direct reports grow more and more mistrustful of each other. They think that their meetings without the CIO are a waste of time because the “real” business is done in their one-on-one time with the CIO. At first, there was open discussion of issues but as mistrust grew, less information was openly discussed.

Over a six-month period, there was open disagreement without resolution–and even some misinformation. The group was deteriorating, and it  filtered down into the ranks. Members of one team began bad-mouthing members of another group within the IT organization.

Bottom line: People were wasting time and precious productivity.

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