Silos Only Exists in The Mind, Not in Any Typical Organizational Structures

Silos only exists in the mind, not in any typical organizational structures. You also embed these silos in the roles and responsibilities in the organizational structure. For example, cost accounting is a trigger for silo mentality. One visible structures that would favor silo mentality and that could create a major dysfunction for an effective throughput are cost centers.

Whatever name you would give to the structures doesn’t matter. In addition, without functional expertise you will never be innovative and creative. This dilemma always exists to balance the functional expertise and to tame the flow of value. How would you attain a mastery in functional expertise and, at the same time, a mastery to tame the throughput in your organizational changing contexts? Designing right organizational structures could help to minimize silos and, unfortunately, all those structures are invisible.

None of the typical organizational structures, team of teams, Agile teams, Spotify or whatever name you would give to them would not help to remove the silos. Those may help to minimize the silos, but dysfunctions will continue and you will never attain a silo free world and you will continue to face challenges to maximize and optimize throughput, and, unfortunately, you will burn more of your money - a scare resource- than needed as most of those are borrowed ideas and are not connected to natural way of working in your environment, and to your organizational needs and changing contexts.

Who would invest their resources to chase a mirage? This was also one reason for this argument that the silos only exist in the minds. Let us explore further the above argument with the following: every manifestation in the real world starts with our thinking processes- what thinking processes could you adopt in your teams and organizations? Understanding and sharing mental models of each stakeholders in the given context is another element - do you have a method to think through different mental models? How do you understand financial flow- throughput accounting is another idea?

How do you design your systems and teams to tame the throughput of your organization? How do you ensure psychological flow as human nature is always unpredictable? How do you plan your activities around current state and future state and the tension between those two states, etc. The TameFlow approach has all the elements that are needed to design the flow of throughput within your organization; in addition, pattern thinking, flow metrics, mental models, and many more will help you put together all the elements to establish the right structures which could help your organization minimize silo thinking.

Learn more about the ‘Jeep, the Jungle, and the Journey’ metaphor and employ it in your organizational context and learn more on how to develop shared understanding of the flow of value, mental models, financial flow through throughput accounting, Thinking Processes of Theory of Constraints, etc. Just recollect the main argument: Silos exists in the mind, not in any typical organizational structures!

Where should be your focus to maximize the throughput in your teams and organizations, not in any of the frameworks and ceremonies?


I would like to express my deep and sincere gratitude and thanks to Mr. Daniel Doiron, Author of ‘Tame your flow’- Ultimate Agile/Kanban Book on Financial Throughput for Immediate Exponential Returns and VP of TameFlow Consulting Limited, for reviewing this article and for suggesting to add one other silo that comes through cost centers and cost accounting. This is probably a major factor that favors silo mentality and for dysfunctions in organizations. Thank you, Daniel!

@sgarapati: I find the notion or concept of “mental models” very interesting. There is a paradox though. Since a “mental model” is subjective (e.g. based on specific personal experience) it is not visible to others. So in your view what might be practical approaches to move towards shared “mental models” that we find meaningful? Maybe you could provide an example?

Disagree. A mental model is not subjective in virtue of the fact that it is a model and thus can be described, communicated and shared with other.

@mark Thank you for asking this question. This helps to see possibilities. @tendon Thank you, Steve. I fully agree that it is not subjective. Hope the following will shed more light in this thinking.

For Practical approaches you may find those within the TameFlow approach itself- know about core protocols and patterns thinking. The Fifth Discipline could be a great beginning step. Throughout accounting and the TOC thinking processes are good practical approaches as well. These will give a start to learn new techniques, but learning will never stop and the scope of possibilities is enormous when you shift the thinking and share the mental models.

Mental models are not subjective and you may have totally wrong mental models. If you think that your subjective mental model is correct than you will be stepping into a valley of troubles from which you won’t be able to recover. For an example, when Toyota showed the world that how manufacturing can be achieved with Just In Time inventory-zero inventory, Detroit automobile executives didn’t believe even after visiting and seeing with their naked eyes Toyota manufacturing facilities and these executives thought that Toyota was not showing real plants( reference Fifth Discipline-2nd edition ). Do you think that kind of mental models - thinking- has changed in the corporate world in the current times? Just because you see something with your naked eyes and with all your senses doesn’t mean it is true. Imagination and shared mental models and shifting the thinking triumphs over everything else.

My own practical example: at one client site I was able was able to help the organization to change a process which used take six plus weeks for post deployment activities of an ERP system to just two days without adding any new automation scripts and physical infrastructure. I was able to achieve that by just shifting mental models and developing a shared understanding of multiple partners and stakeholders and by adding a simple set of processes.

Remember a process is a vehicle - The Jeep- and you cannot build that vehicle when you have your own subjective mental models.

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Aha. So that we apparently disagree on :slight_smile:

In Tame Your Workflow you and @DanielDoiron refer to the following abbreviated definition of a mental model: "Mental Model: An explanation of someone’s thought process about how something works in the real world. It is a representation of the surrounding world, the relationships between its various parts and a person’s intuitive perception about his or her own acts and their consequences. Mental models can help shape behaviour and set an approach to solving problems (similar to a personal algorithm) and doing tasks. A mental model is a kind of internal symbol or representation of external reality, hypothesized to play a major role in cognition, reasoning and decision-making.” Source: Wikipedia page on Mental Models

Since this concept attaches itself to an individual human being I view a mental model as subjective as we can only experience life from our own viewpoint and by using our brain to interpret our surrounding world. That in my view can only be subjective and can never become objective. This might seem like a philosophic rant of sorts, while I think this is key. I can become aware of my mental models and then make a conscious effort to make them explicit to others. Then we might share a mental model - but never fully, since me sharing a mental model with someone else necessitates that they subjectively interpret them through their mental models. So I will ague mental models are never objective. They are subjective while we may attempt to make them explicit and shared - they will not become objective - unless by “objective” you mean explicit enough for common understanding to drive similar behaviour.

Do you consider the behaviour of starting work as soon as received due to the belief that work will then be finished earlier an example of a (flawed) mental model (believing that one can mulritask efficiently in complicated or complex knowledge work)?

Is 1 + 1 = 2 subjective?

@mark you may want to explore the beer game. How subjective decisions of each one in the game would impact the whole system.

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@tendon: Well. First I do not think 1+1 = 2 being mathematics is easily relatable to the concept of a “mental model”.

Is 1+1 = 2 “objective” or “subjective”? Maybe both. 1 + 1 always equals 2 by definition. So in that sense it could be considered objective - while I do not see how this can then be super imposed onto the concept of a “mental model” which is not limited to mathematics.

Secondly looking at numbers also entails context. They are being interpreted subjectively for meaning and possible action. The numbers in themselves carry no meaning. An interesting quote in my view which apparently was popularized by Mark Twain: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”.

All that said I think that the concept of “mental models” is a powerful tool in the sense that I can become more aware of my beliefs which are in a large extend informed by my experiences and therefore influence my behaviours. Hence it is key to make my mental models explicit to others and they theirs to me - so we might share mental models better over time.

@sgarapati: Thank you. I will take a look while I think that an infinite amount of subjective decisions do affect any system - and does most likely not make all individuals move towards a common goal - if that is the learning point?

Mathematics is THE mental model per definition.

The important point: we AGREE that 1 + 1 = 2. We SHARE the same mental model had objectivity is reached by shared subjective interpretation, if you want. We share it because somehow we can COMMUNICATE (or others have communicated to us) how to think in mathematical terms. It is in the sharing that the mental model becomes transferable, and thus valuable.

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@tendon: Thank you. I definitely agree 100% on your statement: “It is in the sharing that the mental model becomes transferable, and thus valuable.”

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Silos very much do exist in organizational structures. It is these structures that create the silos.

The easiest way to visualize this is to draw out an organization’s org chart and then draw in the workflow of product development and maintenance. Invariably, the latter connects the roots along the bottom of the diagram. One has to hop from branch to branch. In my experience, this has led to communications slow downs and breaks as it required a senior executive to set up and attend a meeting with peer-level staff from another branch. Other times, where more minor adjustments could be made by another branch, staff are directed to ‘stay in their swim lane’ and either endure or apply a more complex band aid.

The organizational structure may be a mental model, but it is one that is often deeply ingrained in the organization and causes real issues and problems.

Connections of minds matter.

All structures and mental models that exist in our mind are implicit, invisible, and default. In order to manifest your imagination, you need to make them explicit and visible. You may use different techniques to make them visible and explicit. Underlying invisible thinking and structures are the core foundations for any manifestation. If you don’t see those foundations, all structures that you built won’t last and won’t add any value. Mental models that you have in your mind of the apparent real world will also cause conflicts to the creation and flow of value and what to prioritize. You compound this problem when you have multiple people working together, a typical scenario in any social system. This you won’t get in typical RACI and organizational hierarchy.

What makes you stop sharing whatever that is in your mind? Why typical change in organizational structures that happen every season of the year never helped the bottom line of any business organization?