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Corporate Silos in the working environment

Gabriel Tlagae

Corporate Acumen


A while ago I had an intellectual conversation with a colleague of mine in the Acquisitions department on the great results output should their department and my field of expertise, Marketing merge. The notion of hunting packs was raised, which in essence diminish the idea of silos in the work place.

This then lead to the topic of corporate silos. What are corporate silos? People in different departments within companies are often in the habit of talking or carrying out duties only among themselves instead of sharing information with other departments who may need it. In fact, it has almost become a norm that the lack of communication between the functional units of the company has developed so much that most people accept it as a practice. For those well conversant with organizational structures and behavior, I would like to infer the argument that every organization has different departments that offer unique services that when put together constitute that business strategic building blocks.


 Essentially, one would say internal silos are created out of fear that if a mistake is found or some form of failure is encountered in the business; the organization’s leadership will be interested primarily in finding someone to take the blame. As such, the various teams will isolate themselves to ensure they won’t get lumped with those who are within the leadership’s current focus of finger-pointing and blame.

 

In corporate organizations, you will also find that silos take hold because of the desire we all have to maintain a sense of familiarity; a ‘comfort zone’ if you may that serves to provide feelings of order and consistency in the face of today’s fast-paced and ever-changing marketplace. Within teams or departments, there is a given set of informal rules, a ‘way of doing things’ that creates this comfort zone because of its relative predictability. When teams have to co-ordinate with other teams or divisions, they find themselves having to deal with how others choose to do things.


Sometimes, these differences can be minor; other times they can become the source of an unreasonable “he said-she said” battle between teams as they insist on maintaining their way of ‘how things are done around here’. Of the few people I have been able to engage on this topic, silos are not entirely bad if they are monitored closely and discussed often, because they remove all the unnecessary noise out of the general work process. Imagine what would happen if you put together two departments that have completely different functions like contact center and system development. One of them constantly works with clients over the phone and the other needs a quiet environment in order to focus and write the code on which team members are working. The developers will not be too happy if they have to deal with the commotion created by the process required for customer support.


Silos are mostly apt to form in big companies, but small ones are not insured against them either. A typical example of silos in a small company is when you have 20 people who have the same role, but are divided into three teams working on different projects. They share the same room, but everything else they do is different. Each group concentrates on its own internal communication and focuses on creating better chemistry between its members.


So what can leaders do to free their teams from these organizational silos? In order to answer that question, a look at the specific actions or behaviors which give rise to them in the first place and what measures leaders can take to counter them becomes imperative. Within a given organization, the working units are usually structured by region or by function (marketing, finance, human resources, Actuary, etc.), and each one has its own leader, budgets, and goals. These units become “silos”—just like the grain storage tanks on farms, each one independent from the other. There is often friction between these silos, because their individual objectives frequently take precedence over the overall company objectives. This is where many problems are born. Silos are the opposite of interconnectivity, and therefore often an impediment to engagement.


The lack of a sharing culture leads to segregation and withholding of information in a company. So, many a times silo’s interest is protecting one’s unit or department, which has its own merits but looking at an overall picture, it lessens the output that could have generated should there have been unity in the first instance. Some have argued that instead of breaking the silos holding our teams together, review of these silos via Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) would ensure individual departmental culture but creating an effective and overall productive organizational culture.

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020
Samson

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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