Silos and Hand Grenades in Service Delivery

Published on October 23, 2015

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In a task-based team “tossing” a hand grenade is the passing of technically complete, but outcome unfocused task. This passing is done under the guise of process-driven completion by the individual and as a result of ongoing process granularity.

Every consulting, professional services or service delivery you will hear the catch cry’s of “That’s not my department” or “I did exactly as I was asked” both of which are the echoes of the underlying work ethic of:

“That’s someone else’s problem”

Every person in your organisation is drilled with vision and mission statements along with purpose and goals, but with these lofty ideals, the metrics, process and team dynamics stand steadfast and unmoving. The idea of “doing one’s job” is the myopic view that results in not just inefficacy of any process and the increase in overheads to check, recheck, follow-up, and report on the work being done.

Where ambiguity exists, process will develop to refine and slow the work unless individuals accept responsibility for an outcome and not the task itself

I know of exceptional individuals who manage to track the whole process of activities around them, corralling and cajoling other staff to complete tasks, follow up on their work and provide the outcomes required. But in naturally exceptional teams but these people allowed to be more outstanding as the team around them is more interactive.


As each person becomes aware of the outcomes required at the stage they are involved in then they can effectively pass the task onward without a strict and rigid definition of the processes required as they instead ask the question “what outcome is required”.

Should you define a documentation process that includes who can review, how long it will take, to review, who will provide it to the client, who will follow up and provide updates on progress and in what format?

My Response: Could a highly functioning team’s assumptions be:

  •  documentation needs to be reviewed,
  • a client destination needs to be identified,
  • the format needs to be known,
  • the timeframe for delivery and approval needs to be confirmed.

Given these and many other standard and obvious requirements should the person writing the documentation question: “for whom it is intended” along with all the other aspects of the task to ensure they understand what is required and the smooth flow to the next link in the chain.

Does this mean people have to do more work? of course not. Good people work, smart people work less, and by asking and understanding a slightly larger horizon than just the task presented the work done may be more efficiently completed, handled less, processed quicker and the result will be of an expected outcome and higher quality of completion.

In my consulting teams I have encouraged a step away from task orientation and to look towards the next person’s requirements to integrate into the definition of work instilling both cooperation and collaboration and outcome focus without the need for a quagmire of process.

Where myopia is replaced with even a slightly broader horizon, staff experience can be improved by reducing handoff issues, delays and rework. The client experience is improved as outcomes are achieved more effectively and the organisation effectively starts on its process to avoid silo behaviours.

Silos in organisations start at the individual level; if you change the individual behaviours then silos will be dismantled organically

High performing teams have individuals have to interact, talk, explain end understand the next persons challenge so they improve their situation not leave them to clean up the mess or start from scratch, this destroys the organisational silo behaviours before they hold (and dismantles them if present).

Pass flowers, not hand grenades.

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