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Deeply entrenched organisational silos can take immense resources to overcome. Yet left unattended they can reduce productivity, increase costs and at the extreme, compromise business operations. Dattner Grant leveraged a short program with a focus on leadership and culture to stop silos in their tracks.

Like many Australian councils, Circular Head Council in Tasmania is dealing with several significant, game-changing challenges. The most common of these include rate capping and budgetary constraints, increasing community expectations, challenges with digitisation and digital adoption in their workforce, diversity and even climate change. Each issue presents a suite of business-critical challenges that require significant cultural resilience, agility and adaptability.

 

This type of organisational pressure, unsurprisingly, falls quickly to the shoulders of the executive team. Though each member of the Executive was working hard to deliver on their requirements, a small, pressure-related issue was appearing. The Executive had slipped into an over-focus on delivery in their own area of responsibility. Staff in the organisation would commonly complain that their leaders were all on ‘different pages’. In focusing on their own areas of responsibility, as an executive team they were becoming disjointed, communicating ineffectively and infrequently and, as a result, were creating silos beneath them.

 

Hearing the internal feedback, the CEO commissioned Dattner Grant to run a Leadership Development program, to look in depth at each individual’s leadership style and capability, as well as their impact on organisational culture and effectiveness.

 

Some participants were understandably anxious about the program and the possibility of having their leadership shortcomings highlighted. Knowing this, Tim Ferris, a Senior Consultant with Dattner Grant, applied a great deal of process and expertise in helping participants to feel safe and trusting and, therefore, be honest and forthcoming about their experience and challenges.

In the words of one participant: “I was a bit apprehensive about how much the days would reveal my shortcomings as a leader. The feedback identified many areas where my actual impact as a leader was far from where I would desire it to be. Deep down, many of these findings were not a surprise to me. What was re-assuring, however, was the sessions helped to clarify the reasons behind this and the strategies I could use to begin to bridge the gap.”

 

At the conclusion of the program, the General Manager, Tony, said: “At the end of the first day, when my team was presented with our feedback reports that we completed on each other, with a sunken heart I thought, what the #### did I do this for? Yet, by the end of the program, we all came out with a vision and a goal that will deliver a greater team environment and a culture enhancing not only our own wellbeing and work balance, but embracing the needs of my organisation.”

 

The result for Circular Head Council is an executive team with a united voice and a greater degree of collaboration, resource sharing and mutual support. Silos that could have become entrenched in the organisation have been dissolved, and the degree of cooperation between different areas of the council continues to improve. In the longer term, this synergy of internal efforts will increase the council’s ability to deliver on stakeholder expectations, in budget and on time.

Author, Tim Ferris, Senior Consultant.