T-shaped contributions

transcend silosIn organisation-world we hear a lot about working in silos – usually with a negative connotation. But I’m not sure that we (often) hear about ways to overcome this.

This topic popped in to my head during a development session that I participated in the other day. As I mulled this over, I recalled a former Chief Executive who said that all senior managers should devote 10% of their work time to corporate activities – i.e. not in their own departments (silos).

I’m not sure that many of us lived up to the 10% rule, but it made sense to me. When we worked on corporate tasks; we extended our networks; deepened our relationships; understood each other’s problems (to some extent); and created points of connection. I’ve certainly enjoyed some of the wider roles that I’ve taken on, and I’ve developed my skills , knowledge and experience by doing so. In fact, a colleague recently reminded of a piece of work that I led many years ago, which I had completely forgotten about.

So maybe the solution to silo mentality is to adopt a T-shaped approach to your contribution – deep in your own area, but reaching out across the organisation. And when you join lots of Ts together, you form a bridge (sort of).


Maybe this is too simple or naive, but it seems to me that it’s a whole lot better than complaining about silos, while we bury ourselves deeper in our own.

Your job must have breadth, as well as depth, if your organisation is going to succeed.


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