Silo working has been the bane of life for I don’t know how many years in countless organisations! If I were to ask executives in most major organisations what one of the biggest frustrations they face was, a large proportion would say silo working. In this article, we look at Vectorship as an anecdote to silo working.

What is silo working? Seems an obvious question. Most people would describe a situation where a person or team independently carries out tasks, projects, or responsibilities. Without direct collaboration or assistance from others.

However, I would perhaps add something to this. In my experience, silo working arises from individuals and teams pursuing their independent agendas. Driven by their own goals and outcomes that often conflict with or only partially align with an overarching plan or vision. Consequently, teams find themselves, to varying degrees, working in opposition to each other, leading to a decrease in performance.

Why does silo working matter?

Teams in business (and any other sphere) ultimately strive to attain the highest level of performance outcome in their chosen field, regardless of how it is quantified or assessed. If we consider a team the individuals contribute to the outcomes in two key ways – their Capability and their alignment. When teams are in opposition, their capability frequently turns into a liability, as their higher impact and greater skills exacerbate the harm caused by their misalignment with the rest of the team or organization.

Every person is a vector

A vector in physics is a mass that has magnitude (impact) and direction (an orientation that measures its movement). So in teams, each person is a vector – they have the capability (the impact they make) and direction (alignment).

Let’s explore an example and use some basic numbers to show the impact of vectorship.

Think about a team of individuals. each member of the team could have their capability assessed (in crude terms for this article let’s rate them out of 10). For this example let’s consider the capability to include knowledge, skill level, ideas, insight, and characteristics like diligence and attention to detail. Imagine this team had 5 members and the individual members were rated 7,8,8,9 & 9.  If we add these numbers together we get an overall capability or ‘magnitude’ score of 41 out of 50 – or 82%

Okay, now imagine that each of these team members was again rated (this time we will use a cane from +10 to -10) based on their alignment or commitment towards a common business goal or objective. For this exercise, we will consider alignment or direction to include factors such as willingness or awareness of an overall goal or aim, willingness to set aside my aims for the good of the team, resilience, willingness to act on directives on time and to the standards required, behaviours and general approach to the work they do as well as their agreeableness and team spirit. (A highly talented yet toxic worker would score low on the direction score – maybe even a minus number because they upset other people. Even if their capability score is off the charts. Whereas a lesser performer who is committed to the team might score 10/10 on the direction.

Let’s look at the direction scores for our team – we have a 7,3,8,1 & -3. If we again add these scores together we will see the direction score is 17 out of a possible 50 – or 34%.

Now for the magic – to get the overall performance score of the group we multiply the Impact or magnitude score by the direction or alignment score. So for our example, we multiply 41 by 17 to get a total of 697 out of a possible 2,500 or 28%

Because of the lack of alignment of this team, they are only achieving about a third of what they could achieve – and therefore the business unit in which they operate would be struggling to make any progress. Each member of the team would feel they are working hard but perhaps not making the progress they desire! How often do we hear this kind of story?

Let’s take a look at another team of equally capable individuals. They each have the same impact or magnitude scores – 82%. Only this time they are more aligned with the overall aims of the business scoring a direction rating of 10,10,10,9 & 9. In this team, the direction is 48 or 96%. If we multiply to get the performance scores we see that this team would achieve a performance rating of 79%.

Same capability as the team but a 51% improvement in overall performance because they are more aligned. This team would get to where they want to be at least 2 times quicker than team 1 and would outperform them in terms of productivity, innovation, quality, service and any financial metric you might add.

How do we create Vectorship?

In this second instance, the team achieved their full potential. Any added capability or skill growth would further enhance their performance gap over the other team.

If you also do the math, you can observe that a highly aligned and seamlessly working team could achieve a higher performance rating of 50%. Surpassing Team 1, Even with a 5 out of 10 capability. A team of OK individuals aligned would beat a team of high performers who are working against one another every single time! Synergy doesn’t always come from adding units to an equation!

“The Team you are part of has to come before the team you lead”

Let’s take a look at our Vectorship Model to create greater alignment.

We will begin with the team itself. We aim to build capability and capacity. Capability is skill, knowledge etc. – magnitude or impact. As leaders, we want to be constantly coaching and developing our team so each one can contribute more. We also want to boost capacity – the ability of each team member to apply these skills in a way that contributes to the whole.

When I think about creating alignment I often think of push and pull. Management is the push – it helps control and organise towards the outcome. Leadership is the pull – it compels and draws people in. To create Vectorship you need both.

Let’s look at Leadership first. To create a compelling ‘pull” you need to have a clear and exciting VISION. People want to understand what they are contributing to. Without a clear vision, it is very hard to create vectorship – there is nothing to unify the group.

As a leader, there are four areas where we need to focus our energy. Envisioning our teams. Translating the overall vision into a narrative that connects with each part of the team. The HR will need to see a different version of the vision than the tech team for example. Connected but individual.

Then we have encouragement. If you want to have people push past challenges to achieve an outcome that is aligned, they need encouragement. Positive re-enforcement. Sharing your belief in them to build confidence.

Next, we have to empower our teams – giving them the authority and autonomy to make decisions. Trusting them with the power to influence outcomes using their expertise and insights.

Finally, we have Enable – this is about removing roadblocks, and stepping in when obstacles appear. Our role is to clear the path so that the teams can focus 100% on the execution of plans.

Let’s flip to the left of the model. Great management is the power and energy that fuels the system. However, without the vision even the best management will lead to misalignment. When forced from behind without anything to connect to people will look for the line of least resistance. This may not always be aligned with the overall plan.

The team will need clear Goals so they can focus on the right things. This helps the team recognise the key objectives that are required individually to support the business vision.

They will need clear feedback to ensure they understand when they are on track or off track. This must include feedback around alignment. If a team member starts to stray and go off on their path they need to be brought back into the core direction.

Are the systems and processes in the business geared up to support the team to perform their roles? Where can these systems be improved and made easier?

Finally, does the team have the tools and resources to perform? What more can you do to support them?

Vectorship – the benefits

When the team is aligned and you as a leader are providing the right balance between leading and managing you will create a team that is growing. The capability will increase. The capacity or ability to apply this capability increases. The result is improved performance, greater efficiency and effectiveness. It will also result in more engaged teams. Fewer frustrations. Less toxicity and a more enjoyable place to work. Finally, it would result in eliminating silo work.

If you want help with how you create vectorship and minimise the silos in your workplace then please reach out and we will be happy to discuss it with you – Haydn

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High Performance Leadership Habits Coach. Inspiring more people to love the work they they do. Building Better Workplaces. Developing Better Leaders. Author and leadership thinker focussed on using the power of habits to unlock human and organisational potential.