When you arrive at a meeting do you feel synergy or silos? Do you notice that people are working together and recognizing that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts? Or do you experience silos, territories, and guarded boundaries of “that’s not our responsibility”. Robert Greenleaf reminds us of the challenge of silo versus synergy in his reflection on serving…”how can institutions become more serving? I see no other way than that the people who inhabit it serve it better and work together toward synergy—the whole becoming greater than the sum of its parts.”
You may have experienced organizations that work in silos. Many books, articles and trainings are offered to help break down silos. Unfortunately, management structures, policies, and team dynamics often result in separation of teams into silos. Building synergistic teams takes practice, intention and a belief that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
In healthcare, we often find silos despite the fact the most healthcare facilities have very synergistic mission and values statements. For example, Mayo Clinic’s mission is “to inspire hope and contribute to health and well-being by providing the best care to every patient through integrated clinical practice, education and research.” And their primary value is: “The needs of the patient come first”.
Despite well intentioned missions and values, there are often clear divisions and silos between healthcare service providers, support staff, and administrators. Nurses, technicians, doctors, administration, housekeeping, nutrition, and human resources can at times find themselves working in silos.
Clearly, there are times when there needs to be separation of roles and responsibilities for efficiency and expertise. Yet, many healthcare organizations are breaking down the walls of silos and moving towards synergy. Cottage Health and Clovis Community Medical Center in California are two healthcare organizations with programs to support all individuals in the organization. Their talent development efforts focus on bringing people together for conversation, training, and collaboration. They see that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
How do we move towards synergy and away from silos?
One step is to offer professional development trainings that include multiple departments. Workshops on listening skills, values clarification, communication strategies, conflict resolution, receiving and giving feedback, strengths, and leadership development are powerful ways to break down barriers and open up synergistic collaboration.
Imagine nurses and lab technicians talking about values, admissions personnel discussing feedback techniques with dietitians, and accountants and facilities managers learning how to leverage their collectives strengths. There are endless opportunities to build collective understanding, cooperation, self-awareness and communication.Cross department trainings allow personnel to discover their common goals, values, and opportunities for collaboration. They move away from divisions and towards synergy, collaboration, and greater goals.
Where else do you see organizations moving towards synergy and deeper collaboration? What strategies are working? How can you engage the collective talents of your organization to build stronger foundations of collective values, strengths, and goals into a greater good for all?
A first step on this journey. Select one of your favorite landscape photos and put it over your desk to remind you of the goal. The sky, the hills, the fields, the land as a whole are inspirations for synergy. Look at the landscape and imagine, what is one step I can take to move my team towards synergy!