Can we break Corporate Silos without breaking Specialization?

March 1, 2008 3:42 pm 2 comments

Share this Article


Mansoor wrote an interesting post a couple of days ago that spurred some intelligent discussion. I want to continue the conversation by adding another perspective to one point in the post.

It seemed like Mansoor said that specialists who are very good at one thing alone can create silos within organizations. That may not entirely be true.

I define Silos as two things:

1- Groups within organizations who are making decisions solely to benefit that group/dept even at the cost of the bigger picture. I.e. if something benefits me but conciously impacts, disturbs or damages another dept, so be it.

2- Silos are groups that – in the process of making solo-focused decisions – are unable to communicate their roadmap, plans and progress effectively outside of their group. Other groups neither have influence nor a way of preventing a path the silo is taking.

To me, Silos aren’t a problem of specialists or generalists but a communication / collaboration / knowledge management problem.

Read on for some thoughts and a suggested approach to breaking silos without the need for major restructuring.

I was a Supply-chain mgmt consultant up through a couple of years ago and Master Supply Planning is a common area where cross-funcitonal, silo-breaking discussion is needed between product management, marketing, sales, production, warehousing, inventory, sourcing and finance.

Yet at tactical levels each of these depts need to focus on optimizing their individual areas fully to keep the ball rolling… except for constraints identified at the MSP level.

E.g. a factory’s interest is in keeping their machines running all the time, people engaged 100% so that production cost per unit is minimal and the profits they record are good. However, a constraint will comes from Sales forecasting or marketing where if there isn’t sufficient demand at a given time, there’s no need to keep machines running at 100% and build up stock. The silo would exist if the factory ignores demand and hands off their finished goods to warehousing. The silo-breaking behavior is frequent high-level cross-functional discussions that impose constraints, added with some IT tool that aligns everyones interests down to individual performance numbers and targets.

Shifting focus a bit – I see a similar problem for product managers within Tech product companies… who have to perform cross-functional work by interacting with development, marketing, sales, finance and customer service to figure out exactly how to plan their next product or release. While their individual role is to absorb cross-functional issues, perform CBA and create an optimal release, the actual successful implementation of that release (with the feature-set and other constraints set by the PM) needs specialists focus in each area.

I believe silos are a communication / collaboration issue rather than one resulting from skillsets. Companies can break them down by using IT Tools that support decentralized collaborative planning, if used in the following way:

  1. In the first phase, ask all specialist teams to meet in a place where they can literally dump their full interests, plans, wishlists and more in a single place
  2. Enable one person to use that tool with a decentralized focus (a Supply Chain Manager, Product Manager, Org Strategist, CEO, BOD, or someone else) who can organize the many wishlists into common prioritized goals. This freezing would be the result of a heavily collaborative effort where assumptions and needs could change on a day-to-day basis.
  3. Once frozen, push the final constraint set (whether its production and inventory numbers, feature sets, sales targets, or other milestones and deadlines) back to the specialists teams as goals
  4. Enable the individual specialists to beat those goals and optimize P&L for their depts within those constraints.

Update: A comment on Mansoor’s original post points to a similar theory.

Facebook comments:


  • thanks osama, for a very enlightning followup to my post.

    i guess we’re talking about the same issue, but from different perspectives. one thing i may have forgot in my post, was that its one perspective to view organizational development from. i guess since i work mostly in this area, i see things from that light.

    yet another perspective (which might be a followup on your post) is the centralization vs decentralization evolution, something which is largely seen in our local banking sector.

    your given approach is a very positive direction, if conducted successfuly however, towards ensuring stakeholder commitment to plans and goals. however, one thing which i would like to include is a feedback loop on the whole thing. done as a one off exercise, there is a big danger of alienation once a little time has gone by and the original ideas and concepts forgotten. (remember, the corporate world has a real short memory) and when these goals are then viewed as something shoved down the throats of employees by management rather than something which was collaborative in the first place.

    my two cents.


  • Well said! My approach would be to put these initiatives in a shared public (public to management / functional heads) intranet area…. or have frequent meetings with updates.

    Please do send that followup post

Recent Posts

  • General 10Pearls Spins Off Game Plan8

    10Pearls Spins Off Game Plan8

    It’s heartening to see that Pakistani IT companies have now started to diversify themselves into non traditional areas, and are competing with global players in areas such as gaming. We have received information that 10Pearls, one of the leading  mobile and enterprise web development services companies in Pakistan, has spun-off a separate entity focused solely on developing and publishing casual mobile games.  The new entity, Game Plan8, will focus on creating 2D and 3D games for the iOS, Google Android, Kindle, Facebook and other platforms. Details can be seen on the company’s official press release at


    Read more →
  • General Telecom CCP Gives Guidelines Against Telecom Companies’ Deceptive Marketing

    CCP Gives Guidelines Against Telecom Companies’ Deceptive Marketing

    If only were there two things when it comes to the law, firstly the fear of breaking it and by passing the legal authority, and secondly, implementation of the law given full dedication, there would have been less competency and dishonesty in business and society. However, keeping good faith, the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) has put forward “Deceptive Marketing Guidelines” which will maintain the Section 10 of the Competition Act, 2010. In order to enforce this part of the law and stop anti-competitive conduct on part of the telecom companies in advertising, the guidelines have been shared with Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and other concerned telecommunication sector members, in …

    Read more →
  • General Pakistan’s Energy Solutions as Seen by Tameer Energy and Planetary Power Incorp.

    Pakistan’s Energy Solutions as Seen by Tameer Energy and Planetary Power Incorp.

    From time to time, despite all odds against Pakistan’s current security vulnerability, business and foreign investment come into the country for the potential and opportunities it provides. Pakistan’s energy needs are tremendous and it needs innovative energy solutions. An international energy solutions company based in Europe has taken interest in exploring its chances in Pakistan’s energy market and is willing to offer latest energy solutions at a low cost. This foreign company is Tameer Energy, part of the Tameer Foundation, which promises to bring state-of-the-art technology developed by NASA engineers to Pakistan.

    The CEO of Tameer Energy, Saeed Zuberi says that this technology has not been applied anywhere yet. The …

    Read more →
  • General Telecom Biometric SIM Verification System Delayed Due to Absence of Officials at PTA

    Biometric SIM Verification System Delayed Due to Absence of Officials at PTA

    The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) was supposed to have completed the system of biometric SIM verification by now, but it has been delayed. The biometric SIM verification system was required for purchase of new connections. The delay had been caused by the absence of decision-making officials at the PTA. The other parties concerned with this new system to be introduced, both the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) and the telecom companies are all prepared for this new system to take over.

    The absence of officials has been caused by the internal problems that PTA has been going through one after the other. After the dismissal of the former chairman Farooq …

    Read more →
  • General LEJ Nanotechnology Research Centre Begins Construction at the University of Karachi

    LEJ Nanotechnology Research Centre Begins Construction at the University of Karachi

    Recently, the construction for the Latif Ebrahim Jamal (LEJ) Nanotechnology Research Centre began at the University of Karachi. The ceremony for this occasion was performed by the former Chairman of the Higher Education Commission (HEC), Prof. Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman along with Dean of the Faculty of Science, Prof. Dr. Shahana Urooj Kazmi. Other government representatives were also in attendance.

    The LEJ Research Institute of Nanotechnology will be established inside Karachi University’s International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS). The Hussein Ebrahim Jamal (HEJ) Foundation has contributed a lot in Pakistan’s scientific endeavours and has brought the country regional and international recognition. Due to these institutes, Pakistan is known in the …

    Read more →
  • General Telecom New Telecommunication Projects worth Rs. 71 Million in Rural Sindh Initiated

    New Telecommunication Projects worth Rs. 71 Million in Rural Sindh Initiated

    Recently, the Prime Minister inaugurated different telecommunication, health and education projects worth Rs.1.7 billion in Sanghar, Sindh. Telecommunication is important for socio-economic growth, because not only does it provides connectivity, but also employment to thousands of people. The three schemes for telecommunication are worth Rs.71 million. It is positive news that a rural area in interior Sindh is being brought up to the level as rest of the country through initiation of these projects.

    Through the Universal Service Fund’s (USF) Rural Telecom Project, around 213 villages in Mirpurkhas and 426 villages in Dadu in Sindh will get basic telephony and data services with a subsidy of Rs.930 million and Rs.250 …

    Read more →
  • Announcements General Mobile Apps Software & I.T. Jugnoo Media releases “Duddoo Aur Dhobi”

    Jugnoo Media releases “Duddoo Aur Dhobi”

    There is a dearth of apps for kids and toddlers focusing on Urdu language. So its always feels great when an organization makes an effort to address this small niche market. We have companies like Qurtaba who made some great small apps on iPhone and iOS, and then ToffeeTv generated some great content for kids in Urdu available on web. Now we have Jugnoo Media working on promoting Urdu and Urdu apps for kids and Toddlers.


    They have released an app for iPad and iPhone, its called Duddoo Aur Dhobi which is a combination of two Urdu Poems and presented in a very fun and attractive, interactive poem. Kids …

    Read more →
  • General NIDA will Offer Courses in Design, Marketing, and Computer Skills

    NIDA will Offer Courses in Design, Marketing, and Computer Skills

    The National Institute of Design and Analysis (NIDA) will be conducting specialised vocational courses for females that will equip them for Fashion and Textile Design, Apparel Making and Domestic Tailoring. Other than these, female students will also be offered courses in Multimedia Graphics, Architecture Design, Basic Auto CAD, and Basic Computer Skills.

    The Technology Upgradation and Skill Development Company (TUSDEC) has a subsidiary, NIDA, which will be undertaking all of these vocational courses. TUSDEC is registered with Trade Testing Board (TTB) for CAD/CAM enabled vocational courses.

    The spokesperson further said that the courses are open for enrolment where each course is signified with an extensive and operable curricula particularly contrived …

    Read more →
  • General E-Waste Recycling Workers in Pakistan Get Exposed to Toxic Fumes, Environment is Threatened

    E-Waste Recycling Workers in Pakistan Get Exposed to Toxic Fumes, Environment is Threatened

    Toxic fumes from e-waste in Pakistani villages have become a major environmental and health hazard. Mostly pure people from the villages burn these e-waste products, those computers, devices and gadgets that have been discarded irresponsibly by the users and various companies. In Pakistan, there said to exist a secret, in words illegal, e-waste recycling cottage industry that has been recently reported several times. The attention of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) toward the drastic situation these toxic fumes lead to must be focused on solving the issue as they are part of the market.

    At a recent conference held in Zurich on ICT for Sustainability, the e-waste in Pakistan …

    Read more →