Eliminating Silos Across Functional Lines

Maximising flow in operations has been a hot topic for many years, but many companies struggle with increasing flow across their respective functional disciplines. Pharma IQ conducted an interview with Nick Ruhmann, Continuous Improvement Leader and Certified Master Black Belt at BD Medical, Diabetes Care, to get insights on eliminating silos across functional lines.

Pharma IQ: Can you first clarify for us – what are the symptoms of silo management?

N Ruhmann: Silo management has many symptoms, most of which are painfully visible to everyone except those people actually in the Silo! Symptoms such as:

- People organised into departments specifically by functional roles

- Departments measured by metrics that only reflect the success of their specific function(s)

- Lack of standard and well followed methods to share learning and root cause analysis across departments

- Problems are rarely highlighted and brought to the surface

Pharma IQ: What are the causes and effects of silo management?

N Ruhmann: Organising people based on function or skill set is a completely intuitive idea and one that's been around a long time. Most organisation are arranged / act in a "silo" manner to some degree or another. In smaller companies or organisations we find this really doesn't have any negative effect. The silo's aren't deep enough to keep people from informally interacting and working across boundaries. Larger companies, and especially modern companies with the ever increasing complexity that comes with the modern world are creating massively deep silos of functional expertises that act and breath as their own entity, oblivious to the results / needs of other departments and perhaps even their parent company. This creates a solution inefficient, competing relationship between groups that should instead be sharing solutions and working towards common goals.|

Pharma IQ: What can leadership do to counter this problem?

N Ruhmann: While there is some degree of horizontal formal organisation that can benefit a company, this alone is not the answer. Rearranging people formally on an org chart or in a building will simply create another set boundaries between those sharing functional expertise! The answer is not to avoid silo management, but provide skills and instill behaviors that countermeasure the negative aspects. For example, giving departments common objectives across silos and when a problem occurs, we need to  not just fix the problem, but SHARE every problem and its solution across silos....religiously.

Pharma IQ: What problems did your company face, and were you able to overcome them?

N Ruhmann: All of them, and some days, some weeks we overcame. Other times we slipped, but not as far. Each company I've worked for has experienced this issue to one degree or another, and likely always will. It is not a one time countermeasure to install and walk away from. It is constant work, dedication to continue good  communications and behaviors, and willingness of managers to be leaders across the organisation.

Interview conducted by Amber Scorah.