“Although we heard a lot about No-Silos approach and we understood that it means breaking the current known departments into hybrid groups of experts taken from our existing silos, We didn’t realize what no-silos really intend. Just when we started to adopt this principle, we understood both the difficulties and advantages of this approach.” With those words, Jay decided to start his session.
The conference room was packed with uniforms coming to hear about the concept of No-Silos. Jay stood on the podium with his little shy smile while he delivered the session.
The first two years of our implementation of non-conventional ways to manage and structure organization characterized with many changes and challenges, so when I was called to an emergency meeting in the previous COO office, I wasn’t surprised at all. I couldn’t say it was a routine, but it was common to be invited to meetings you weren’t aware that they even took place before the change. As the company replaced managers with a different operating system, the previous executive starts to create groups that, they believe, were needed to the success of the company.
There were eight people in the room including Mark, our previous COO. No one seems to be surprised or nervous, on the other hand, it was clear that I’m not the only one who didn’t know the people in the room. Silence govern the place.
Mark started the meeting with greetings and after that directly dived into business. As part of the company strategy group, I want to make sure that we are creating new markets for our company, that we are disrupting ourselves. We know that our competitors are investing time and effort to turn shoes into hardware by adding sensors and collecting data to help customers and create new business opportunities. As you all know we are not doing anything in this domain.
The strategy group decided that we need to fill this gap and put in place a new strategy group to create and then implement our company strategy for smart shoes. Then Mark looked at each one of us and said if you don’t want to be part of this new team you can leave the room. No one left the room! Between us, who wants to give up the opportunity to drive a company to new markets.
Mark smiled, Yeah I would be surprised if someone will leave the room. Perfect! Just remember the future of the company depends on your work. Since we know that at least one competitor is ahead of us, we expect this new group to deliver results as fast as possible.
Assemble the group
I looked at the other people which I didn’t know trying to figure out what is going on here, but I couldn’t figure it out. Mark continued his speech; I know that you don’t know one each other and you are probably thinking what is going on here. You all remember when we discuss no-silos in our town hall meetings? As we all noded mark continued, you are going to be the first team to exercise no-silos. You already familiar with the autonomy that each group has to make their decisions and execute them. Now it is the first time that we assemble a group with expertise and experience from different silos that we have right now.
John from marketing, Jane from financial, Rebecca from Technology, Jay from sells, Anna from production, Anup from Legal and our new system expert Jane; Each one of you will provide expertise and experience from his field to reach this group purpose, creating new smart shoe strategy.
You have the autonomy to define how you are doing it, and we expect you to self-manage and self organize as a group. As you know we are not nominating anyone as a leader; we encourage you to use Jane as she can help you to become a team.
We are going to meet as an extended team every month with the entire strategy group, so we can see the progress, discuss your metrics and give you a feedback as we are the consumers of your services.
“We created a working pace for you, so let me show it for you”, Mark said as he stood up and started walking.
1st step: Chaos
Now we were seven people that don’t even know one each other in a beautiful working environment, assigned to a big task, but without any clue how to start.
Well, we found out very fast that the problem was that everyone knew exactly how to start. Just each one had completely different ideas on how to start, based on his experience. No one had the flexibility or the willingness to listen to others. If felt like and it was one big chaos. Everyone thought that he is the leader and that his approach is the only right one, while the others are entirely wrong.
When we looked at Jane, she took a big metal bowl, hit it with a mallet and asked us if the sound was pleasant. Yes, it was an enjoyable and relaxing sound, but come on you are not going to help us to become a function group by providing relaxing sound? Well, she thought differently.
After a week of endless ideas and debates, sometimes with high tones and lots of gongs from Jane the only difference was that the tones came down and people start to listen more one to each other. Yet, another week passed by with complete chaos and without any progress. There was just one consensus in the group. Something that we all agree, Jane and her bowl. When we discussed that we all operate as one group without any conflict. And Jane, Jane now started to produce different sounds from her bowl. Well, we all knew HR people are different, but to that level?
2nd step: Order Emerged
As the fourth week started, Jane kept on increasing the tendency and the frequency of the sounds, which forced us to spend more and more time talking about her instead of our need to agree how we are going to work as a team.
After three weeks and two days, Anna suddenly dropped a bomb during one of our regular common discussion about Jane. Why we can’t collaborate on the smart shoe strategy as we are collaborating when we discuss Jane. Why when each one of us speaks about Jane we listen, agree, and everyone contributes different angle to the discussion; but we can’t do it when we discuss smart shoes? Is that pride and ego that pushed by our professional pride that prevents us from working as one group?
There was a long silence (even Jane stopped hitting the bowl) Than everyone smiled and then as magic we all started to talk on smart Shoes. In two days we listen one to each other, everyone brought his own point of view, and we found out that we are already working as one group. That each one of us found the spot that he feels comfortable in the group, each one of us is bringing a unique point of view and that we all respect one each other. Even Jane left her bowl on the table and joined our conversation.
During the last day of the fourth week, we agreed on two preferred strategies that we want to present to the strategy group and ask them for their feedback on which strategy they feel comfortable we should spend our time. It felt awesome to be part of a group that is working together. The meeting with the strategy group just proved us that we all part of a unique group with a significant and respected contribution to our company.
3rd Step: the first conflict
We all worked as one group. Yes, we hade challenges and crisis, but we felt that from chaos emerged very good order that helped us to resolve quickly any issues or disagreements that popped up. Slowly we defined and formalized the different functions in the new entity. Responsibilities, managed artifacts, interaction with other entities and metrics defined for each function.
But, as you know, people are coming from different backgrounds and with diverse systems of belief, and it is always a matter of time until disagreements will hit a cultural or belief system hot spot. That happened to us as well. We all agreed that we need to add as many sensors that we can to our shoes, as well as cellular communication. Collecting data and sending it in a realtime to a central location will enable us to provide unique service to customers while we will be able to build a new business around the gathered data.
Based on the way we split our company we had two options for implementation, men’s shoe or women’s shoe — good enough ground for conflict. We activated our conflict resolution process and following our merit voting the decision was to move with women’s shoes.
4th Step: The 2nd crises
But people didn’t respect the conflict resolution decision and cracked started to grow into real gaps between our group members. those gaps brought the entity to be miss function again. It wasn’t chaos this time; it was some fundamental disagreement that derives from passion and believes that the adopted solution will jeopardies the strategy success due to known low adoption level of embedded technology in the Women’s shoe market.
Any attempt to breach the gap didn’t work out, and we all start to ask Jane for help and advice. This time Jane brought to work a set of seven bowls. Each bowl was in different size and produce a different set of notes, but when she played them, they all create together great harmony. Any other help requests from Jane generated very vague replay about resolving the conflict as a group. We tried really hard to fill the gap in long open discussions, but every group was a firm believer that he has the right solution.
Then one day Jane started to play just with the bowls that are generating very high-frequency sound, it was horrible. The next day she did it with the very low-frequency bowls, same catastrophe. The third day we didn’t hear any tone, in a bizarre way that was the worst day for all of us. The fourth day Jane asked to speak. You all heard the harmony produced when I used opposites sounds, as well as the unbearable sound produced from using just one type of bowls. But, I think you all agree that the worst was not to hear any sound. I don’t know if you know, but each bowl is created by melting seven different metals to produce harmony. This process involves chemistry and generates heat and fractions before all the metals melt into harmony.
The same applies to us a group. As the combination of high and low-frequency sounds create harmony, why on earth a mix between our two opposite ideas cant bring harmony as well. I’m not an expert in shoes and strategy, but I don’t understand why we can’t implement the smart shoe strategy both in women’s and men’s footwear. We can use it for women’s elegant shoes and men’s sports shoe. One way or another reaching harmony is the best solution than playing just high-frequency tones, and playing just one tone is better than not playing at all.
We all looked at Jane and smiled as we knew that she had a valid point and we missed the basic idea of thinking out of the box.
“As you all know,” said Jay, our company succeeded in our smart shoe strategy. Our group becomes a model, and each one of us spends time and effort helping other groups to become successful hybrid groups. We didn’t use bowls to deliver messages as we found out that we are not as expert as Jane in her field, but as you heard we are using her unique way to tell our story.