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In focus group discussions that I conduct at many colleges and universities to identify obstacles that prevent the delivery of excellent service, one of the most frequently mentioned is the presence of silos among departments. This is not only the case in higher education institutions, but also in many other organizations. Each department acts as an entity on its own and doesn’t show the respect and consideration to the other departments. Ultimately, this affects the external service to the end customer. Internal service has a direct correlation to external service. In other words, if my colleague is rude to me, it is very difficult for me to not take out those feelings of anger or resentment out on my customer – who may be that student or other end user.

To begin breaking down these silos, I would recommend the following activity to take place at the beginning of all staff meetings for the next 6 months.

1. Identify another department or work group on whom your department/work group depends.

2. Identify specific things your department appreciates about that other department.

3. Write a thank-you note to that department sharing all the reasons why your department appreciates them. If you have a large department, ask for a volunteer to write this note on behalf of everyone, if you have a small department, have someone write the note and everyone can sign it.

By doing this, you solidify the fact that we are all dependent on one another and by expressing our appreciation, we can strengthen our relationships. This in turn, leads to better cooperation and delivery of service to each other and our final customers.

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One Response Comment

  • Pamela Murray  November 11, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    Teri is right on…most companies do operate in silos. Unfortunately, companies that realize this often don’t know how to change the culture to one of “teams”. Employees need to recognize that they are members of more than just one team – they know they are on their department or work location team; however many have never been told that they also play on a larger team – the company as a whole. When smaller teams connect with their larger teams, a new understanding of responsibility results. This translates to departments realizing how their actions affect other departments, and from this new ideas emerge, encouraging everyone to work together toward one cause rather than simply working to check something off a to-do list without knowing the significance of their actions toward the success of the company’s goals.


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