This cartoon by Manu Cornet first made the internet rounds a couple of years ago but still has relevance today. It appeared again in a recent issue of The New York Times business section as part of a story about the reorganization of Microsoft.
Satire aside, I think this cartoon has two messages. One is that regardless of how a company's structure looks on paper, it probably functions very differently. And two is that there are many different types of company culture and no one culture is right for every business.
Adam Bryant, in his "News Analysis" column in the same issue of The New York Times as the Manu cartoon, poses a question about culture that vexes every CEO, whether the leader of a 100,000-employee company or a three-person law office:
How do you get everyone to think in terms of “Us” — we’re all on the same team — rather than thinking of colleagues in other divisions as “Them”?
This is the challenge that all departmentalized organizations face - getting everyone on-board and rowing in the same direction. A lack of alignment is represented by the Microsoft box in Manu's cartoon (only a slight exageration - they might use email instead of a gun).
The problem is trust. it's the tendency of human beings to trust the people to whom they are physically and operationally close and to distrust everyone else until something is done to actively build trust among individuals and teams.
Bryant offers a few tips for overcoming this silo mentality and building trust.
Create a ‘One Company’ Culture - Help employees see how what they do and the decisions they make on a day-to-day basis impact the entire company.
Simplify the Scoreboard - Develop a small set of simple-to-understand performance measures that everyone can work towards.
Communicate Relentlessly to the Entire Staff - Repeat the same, consistent message over and over again at every opportunity so that everyone hears the same thing and believes that you mean it.
This sounds simple but it's not. It takes earning the trust of your employees everyday and working hard everyday to gain their commitment to a shared organizational strategy.