Silos Are for Grain
fixtures on farms throughout America. They are mass storage
facilities for the wonderful bounty of farms in an industry
which is arguably the most successful industry ever in
American history. Our ability to do amazing things with
agriculture is attributed not only to science and technology,
but to the industrious and innovative work of generations of
people who turn raw land into bountiful gardens.
Unfortunately, while silos are
wonderful agriculture tools, such "structures" cause trouble
and serious risk of failure in public administration. Every
organization has various "silos" inside the bureaucracy. They
are walled off, separated areas of function or perceived power
in which information may flow in but doesnt necessarily flow
out regularly or smoothly.
there are too many separate centers of powers, each concerned
about its individual survival rather than larger
organizational or community interest, the risks are strong
that policies will be created without key information being
available, or that organizations wont work as well as they
might. We will spend more on local government and not get as
much output as we could. A prominent HR example will make the
compensation is a challenge for everyone in management. Not
only is it very expensive and very complicated, but it also
drains organizations of productive work and can harm morale.
It is essential that employees who are injured in the line of
duty receive extraordinary help from their workplace family.
This means timely and caring help with their medical bills and
their lost income.
the intent behind workers compensation laws when they took
root in the United States. This scenario, however, has been
clouded over time by laws, which are often the result of
effective employee organization lobbying, aggressive plaintiff
attorneys and medical confusion. All of this has exactly the
wrong impact on already-strained local government budgets at
the worst time.
from above in the form of state budget lunacy increase the
pressures and hurt the services of counties.
isnt tough enough, allowing organizational units to hurt each
other by lack of communication compounds the problem. For
example, some significant portion of employees who file
frequent workers compensation claims are also likely to be
"frequent flyers" when it comes to the use of health insurance
benefits. They are likely to also be frequent unscheduled
also be in the rather small group of employees who drain
energy from supervisors by constantly being on the brink of
performance or behavioral troubletrouble which should be a
basis for counseling, disciplinary action or separation from
however, supervisors who lack confidence or knowledge about
dealing with such marginal performance simply "walk by" the
problems and dont address them. The result is the need for
overall employee work/life management by the organization to a
degree not currently available in most
example, workers compensation may be part of a risk
management department, which may be inside a finance
organization. That group may not speak to or coordinate
activities with the benefits administrator who may work in
another agency, such as human resources.
creating separate organization silos in which workers
compensation does not speak to benefits, which may not speak
to HR, which may not speak to supervisors in the field
departments, and with no one speaking to the employee, the
result serves no ones interest at all except those of the
poorly performing employee, and perhaps the newly retained
these circumstances, a silo creates organizational blind
spots. In the blind spots, marginally performing employees
have a chance to hide and continue to be barely productive or
nonproductive for years.
In the HR
Doctors experience, it is extremely valuable to examine the
design and structure of the organization to identify where
such silos may exist and how to take active steps to dismantle
them and eliminate blind spots.
mean taking an overall organizational "case management"
approach. In the management of attendance, workers
compensation, health benefits, and other areas, we live in a
sea of single-focus practices. Even when we hire an outside
organization to manage workers compensation, and the company
swears up and down that it will practice aggressive "case
management," the reality is that the case management these
firms are talking about is the management of the workers
compensation portion of the much larger set of issues. The
organization itself must take action to ensure that the kind
of case management it practices is the much more effective
organizationwide "anti-silo" form of case
start doing this, we will find that workers compensation will
be out of our control. We will find that health benefit
utilization will drive continuous and very ugly cost increases
in health insurance. We will find behavior and performance
failures that go unchecked, leading to workplace violence
cases being more likely, sexual harassment and discrimination
claims occurring more frequently, a more fertile field for
grievances, and impaired service delivery.
there may be several hundred excuses that can be offered about
the rising cost of medical inflation, what shines through is
if we dont take as individual appointed and elected leaders
the kind of "view from 40,000 feet" about what is going on, we
are only causing our own trouble. As two folk singers of the
1960s (Fred Martin and Vince Neil) would say, "Its time to
tear down the walls" and look at more effective ways to give
the public better service and fewer long-range costs
starting by eliminating our own blind spots.
about this the next time you drive by a farm silo, or, for
those urban readers, see a picture of one!
The HR Doctor