The following entry is a part of the Pattern Library. The Pattern Library records the common patterns of events that have the potential to lead to project failure.

Name : Silos
Type : Behavioral pattern (patterns that influence the actions of an individual or group)

In brief :
Organizational boundaries between groups and organizations prevent free flows of communications or collaboration.

Outline :
Many project teams are formed by resources from a number of different groups or organizations.  In some cases the organizational boundaries between groups form walls that prevent the team acting as a single integrated entity.   Errors, omissions and bad assumptions arise at the interfaces between groups as different groups have different understandings of their own roles and the roles of others. 

The resulting communications breakdowns result in “Intellectual disintegration” (groups heading in different directions because of different understandings) and ineffective teamwork.

Typical sequence of events :

  1. Team is formed from resources in different departments or different organizations
  2. Individuals fail to gel as a single team
  3. Individuals focus on performing the role as they define it within their own group.  Assumptions about roles of other groups are never formally discussed
  4. Resulting gaps allow for errors and omissions to grow
  5. Late breaking issues arise as a result of the errors and omissions.

Negative effects :

  1. Undetected errors and omissions
  2. Increased burden on project’s leadership as they manage issues arising from poor collaboration.

Common Root Causes :

  1. Significant culture differences between groups
  2. Gravitation (we are familiar with our own groups and hence focus internally within our own group rather than thinking of the needs of the overall project)
  3. Allegiance to one group and the tendency to externalise all problems onto other groups.

Suggested Actions :

  1. Co-locate people from different groups into a single team office or location
  2. Create a team culture that is stronger than the allegiance to the individual groups
  3. Establish clear expectations concerning how the team will work and interact together
  4. Ensure people from different groups share their expectations and assumptions with everyone else so that assumptions about roles and ways of interacting are surfaced and addressed.

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