We’re On the Hunt for Silos…and You Won’t Believe What We’ve Found

‘Eliminating Operational Silos’ isn’t something new to the world of Lean. This is a tried and true method, a baseline if you will, for eliminating waste and aligning your company’s vision to build a Lean Fulfillment Stream.

(If the term "lean fulfillment stream" isn’t familiar to you, I would highly encourage you to check out the following resource, Building a Lean Fulfillment Stream, published by the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI) and written by our very own Robert Martichenko and Kevin von Grabe.

One of the core practices and identifiers of a Lean Fulfillment Stream is that value is being pulled from each step in the process to the next until value is delivered to the customer. As the name would allude, a true Lean Fulfillment Stream is a supply chain or business process that perfectly fulfills customer demand by a steady flow of value being pulled through the process. If a business process isn’t producing value for your end customer and it’s not being pulled through the supply chain, then I feel confident that it’s tinged with waste and needs to be refined so that only value remains.

The deepest problems you will face in your organization, the ones most riddled with waste and the ones that seem impossible to solve, are often rooted in silos. Silos do more harm to a company and their lean journey than I think most people will realize or admit.

4 Highly Negative Effects of Silos on Your Company:

1) Silos prevent problem solving by providing excuses:

  • “That’s outside of my department.”
  • “I don’t have any influence on that process, talk to ­someone else.”
  • “That’s just the way things are done at this company.”


2) Silos create a rigid organizational structure and leave employees not feeling empowered to make lasting or deep changes that impact multiple areas of the business.

3) Silos pit department managers against one another to meet their own department’s goals and metrics.

4) Silos prevent company-wide alignment and prevent people from cross functional collaboration to solve problems uniquely and effectively.

In my opinion, problem solving is all about throwing excuses out the window, and collaboratively opening your mind to search for simple, effective, and lasting solutions. Silos make something like that impossible!

My challenge for you, no matter what level of your organization you find yourself in, is to look around and start taking note of silos within your company. Think outside the box… don’t just look within your department.

Here are some types of questions that can help you dig into the reality of your current situation:

Does your sales and marketing department ever communicate or plan business activity with operations to level set on capacity constraints?

Is your operations department divided up into teams that aren’t encouraged to cross-functionally collaborate?

Do all of your managers share a common vision and goals for you as an employee? Have you ever received conflicting feedback or direction?

Do your IT processes and solutions align with the rest of your business strategy?

The best advice I can give you is that eliminating silos is not something you can do on your own. You will need to work closely with your peers, managers, and employees to make them aware of silos and help shift everyone’s perspective towards the importance of eliminating these barriers in the business.

I wish you the best of luck on your lean journey, and may your hunt for silos be bountiful!

Written by Colin Willis, Operational Excellence Team Lead at LeanCor

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Posted by LeanCor Supply Chain Group

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LeanCor Supply Chain Group is a trusted supply chain partner that specializes in lean principles to deliver operational improvement. LeanCor’s three integrated divisions – LeanCor Training and Education, LeanCor Consulting, and LeanCor Logistics – help organizations eliminate waste, drive down costs, and build a culture of continuous improvement.

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