Archive for May 20th, 2017

What are the advantages of Tribal Knowledge sharing and working in Silos?

Saturday, May 20th, 2017

To: Cesare Borgia <cesare.borgia@…> From: Niccolò Machiavelli <niccolo.machiavelli@…>

 Dear Cesare, 

I miss the good old Italian Renaissance — the politicking, the conniving, the murder of reputations, and, yes, of actual people at times. But what a happy coincidence that we both reincarnated into the age of caffeine vendors, politically correct thinking and smartphones! Speaking of the latter, I see on Linkedin that you’re currently a mid-level manager of a mobile media company. I was saddened, Signor Borgia, by the news that you had to take such a humble position, but I’m confident that you’ll soon be moving back to greatness.

In order to bring that about, you must not, (as I’m sure you already know) fall for this soft-headed nonsense about collaboration and greater transparency we hear so much about. Remember: 

Secrets can make us strong!

If a question comes up about how to solve a certain issue at work. You might be tempted by all the “silo-breaking” nonsense floating around in this goofy century to ask a question in your company’s Q&A Intranet site or Slack with the idea that it will get broadcast to a large net of people, allowing for the most effective method of getting attention of an SME (subject matter expert). Maybe you’re being told that your posted-question will benefit others with the same question in the future, helping them to find their answer faster, and make your organization more efficient and competitive on a whole. 

Yes the ROI of collaboration is considerable, but don’t be put off by this! Be grateful, instead, that the business accounting is taking a long time to capture and reflect those benefits. There’s a good chance, therefore, this “contribution” will, at least for the next couple of years, not even get recognized. In most organizations, therefore, it’s a way better plan to “ask” (with your voice) around for who might have the answer and then ask them directly. The advantage of this is, you might get the answer faster (reading/writing can be such a hassle). But also you will now be one of the select few with this knowledge. You can then become an SME on the topic and the next time someone has the question, they won’t be able to get it easily without coming to you. Having people walk up to your desk and ask you questions can greatly improve your reputation as “someone with answers”. If the person asking you is in direct competition with you, you can take your time giving them the answer, ensuring your competitive advantage over them and also forcing them to accrue a “social debt” with you for passing the knowledge onto them. Again, don’t waste that opportunity by posting the knowledge on your Jive or SharePoint Intranet. If someone else tries to document this knowledge, remind them that you are the SME and it needs to be vetted with you first. If they ask again, tell them it will be included in the “new” knowledgebase system you are bringing online next quarter.

You can easily see that this logic doesn’t only apply to Q&A. In many organizations people are tempted to “work out loud” by blogging about their work to give transparency into what they do, to act as sort of a micro-marketing campaign of their achievements as well as education to their peers. I’m confident that you’re not doing this, but if, under the influence of some naïve ideal, you are, stop it!

Again, these blog posts can only serve to empower your competitors (co-workers or competing teams) and allow them to copy or even take credit for your work. A better strategy is to never blog, but rather blackbox yourself, in the meantime compiling all your work achievements into a PowerPoint deck which you can use to impress people with all your achievements at the end of the quarter. 

Next my friend, project management should be siloed!

Similar to blogging, you should consider making your JIRA projects private so prying eyes cannot peek at your projects. Or better yet, just do project management in a spreadsheet that cannot even be seen by anyone you don’t explicitly share it with. Remember, sometimes your fiercest competitors are on the same team. In the meantime keep reading the blog posts and status updates of your co-workers, so when a competing team updates JIRA with “enter the QA phase of a datamart” make sure to add a bullet point on your PowerPoint which says “Enterprise Insights Datamart Go Live” making you appear to be ahead of the trend.

Won’t this negatively affect my organization you ask?

Yes, it most certainly will. But, like watering down the soup in a popular restaurant, despite costing you customers long term, it will increase profits in the short term! There will be some collateral damage on your way to greatness. Your knowledge-hoarding will make “you” more valuable and help you to get more recognition in the subsequent years. And then you can use your enhanced status to encourage “other people” to collaborate.

What about remote and overseas workers you ask?

Won’t they suffer if our HQ makes less use of collaborative systems?

Don’t bother yourself with such questions! The fact you’re at HQ means that you can benefit from the greatest amount of tribal knowledge being very close by. If these distant workers ask about collaboration, encourage them to collaborate, so you can once again follow all their progress, and take credit for their achievements if necessary.

If you follow these steps, while continuing to give lip-service to collaboration and “breaking down silos” this will ensure your rise to corporate greatness!

Regards,

“Nick” Machiavelli 

But seriously folks

I once read in a self-help book that taking a serious look at the pay-offs of bad habits helps expose them to the sunlight and help see how alternative behaviours would make more sense. Storytelling in organizations nowadays tends to only focus on the advantages of positive traits we are trying to embody. However when we fail to understand why we tend to return to negative traits, it makes change that much more difficult. I believe that only after we take a serious look at the payoffs of negative traits – can we get back to the business of Breaking Down The Barriers of Silo Mentality, and truly achieving a collaborative culture.