Sunday, May 31, 2015

Book Review: Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars

Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars: A Leadership Fable about Destroying the Barriers That Turn Colleagues Into CompetitorsSilos, Politics, and Turf Wars: A Leadership Fable about Destroying the Barriers That Turn Colleagues Into Competitors by Patrick Lencioni

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The thing to know about Patrick Lencioni's fables is that they are written from a consultant's perspective.  Since I am a consultant, I deeply appreciate that. It helps to have established methods and models to effectively help client organizations work through their challenges.  Both Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Death by Meeting contain excellent tools I have used to help others identify their specific needs and take steps to improve.  It's fun work. 

In my practice I have sometimes found it difficult to convince clients that their team is dysfunctional or that their meetings don't have to suck.  In those cases, I can rely on one or more of the tools in Lencioni's books to help then diagnose their issues themselves, which of course increases buy-in for whatever solutions are chosen.  With Silos, Politics and Turf Wars, however, no such tools exist.  When units within an organization are siloed (not communicating effectively) or when people are spending energy guarding their turf rather than contributing to team success, it seems particularly easy to blame others. "It's the fault of the people in that other department. They are causing the problems." That's when my client really needs me to share my observations directly and suggest strategies for changing their own habits and practices. And that's where Lencioni lets me down this time.

In the fable, an aspiring consultant identifies turf issues at play in each of the first three clients he takes on. As the story progresses, we see how he addresses the problems and reveals his method for helping them work through it.  We even get to see him fall on his face, causing real damage by ham-handedly pointing out how internal politics is holding one organization back.  Though it almost gets him fired, he pulls it out in the end.  This was an excellent caution for me as a consultant... but Lencioni then provides little guidance on how to avoid the same mistake myself.

As with all of Lencioni's works, the "model" is described in the last 30 pages.  For Silos, Politics and Turf Wars, the prescription includes 1) identifying an over-arching, organization-wide "thematic goal", 2) establishing "defining objectives," 3) developing a set of "ongoing standard operating objectives", and 4) choosing the "metrics" with which to measure progress.  All good stuff and hugely beneficial for any group of two or more people. I just wish I knew how to convince more of my clients that this is the way to go. I think the need for goals, objectives, and metrics is so obvious to Lencioni (as it is to me) that he struggles to articulate the "why" part, though that is exactly the part that people outside of our professional field need most.

Still, I am glad I read this one and I will also recommend it to anyone I think will benefit.  Maybe someday I will be the one who figures out how to explain the why part, and write that book myself. 

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