Silos, Politics and Turf Wars: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: July 18th, 2011 by bobmorris

Silos, Politics and Turf Wars: A Leadership Fable About Destroying the Barriers That Turn Colleagues Into Competitors
Patrick Lencioni
Jossey-Bass (2006)

Here’s the situation. Jude Cousins is a talented, energetic, and ambitious young marketing executive at Hatch Technology who, with his wife Teresa’s support and encouragement, decides to leave his secure job after Hatch is purchased by Bell Financial Systems. He establishes an independent consulting practice and almost immediately obtains three clients: The Madison Hotel (San Francisco’s oldest, largest, and most prestigious independent hotel), JMJ Fitness Machines (a manufacturer of high-end consumer and institutional exercise equipment), and Children’s Hospital of Sacramento. Jude also agrees to help Father Ralph Colombano, pastor of Corpus Christi Church (in Walnut Hill, California) on a pro bono basis. Later, he adds his former employer as a consulting client but only after he has learned some important lessons.

One of the many challenges when writing a business narrative is to create fictional characters and relationships that are plausible. Although Lencioni calls his book a “leadership fable” (and it is), he anchors Jude in familiar, real-world situations during his journey of discovery so that the lessons he learns are relevant — and applicable — to most readers’ own experiences. I also appreciate the fact that, while demonstrating with fictional characters how to destroy “the barriers that turn colleagues into competitors,” he never allows those characters to sound like they are lecturing or preaching. Wisely, Lencioni includes only as much dialogue as is absolutely necessary.

He has some quite serious objectives in mind. As he explains, “To tear down silos, leaders must go beyond behaviors and address the contextual issues at the heart of departmental separation and politics. The purpose of this book is to present a simple, powerful tool for addressing those issues and reducing the pain that silos cause. And that pain should not be underestimated.” Indeed not.

One of his cleverest devices is to have Jude complete a journey of discovery that reveals precisely what he (Lencioni) wishes to share with his reader. Hence the importance of the use of a third-person anonymous narrator which juxtaposes the reader (as observer) with Jude as well as with those with whom he interacts. Trust me, it works. Of much greater importance is what Lencioni has to say about how to reduce (if not totally eliminate) counter-productive “silos, politics and turf wars.” He fully understands that some silos can be beneficial (usually on farms), probably agrees with President Harry Truman and others that politics are “the art of the possible,” and recognizes that there are at least some “turf wars” that must be fought…and won.

What he’s most concerned about in this book, obviously, are the contextual issues that can disrupt, weaken, and eventually destroy any organization. If its people are unwilling and/or unable to communicate, cooperate, and collaborate effectively between and among each other, they certainly cannot do so with anyone else in the organization’s value chain. ..including the most important constituency, customers.


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