Why I said that breaking silos can be detrimental

Following my post last week, a former colleague of a large company contacted me. He wanted to know why breaking silos without the help of a professional can be detrimental. I leave my next post about the kind of leaders our world needs for later…

To illustrate my point, I will use this simple story. Say you give a gift to your son, making him a very happy kid. Now, apply the rules that govern your home, in which you define sharing and collective sense as non-negotiable principles. And ask your son to share his new gift with his sister. Hmm, I’m pretty sure your request spoils his party a little … you might even see him resist. Or worse, oppose your request, accusing yourself of wanting to diminish his power.

Now you want the same rule of “sharing” in your business. You plan to ask your staff to work together more to improve your organizational agility.

The double-bind of cross-collaboration

With my little story, I hope it will be easier for you to see the conflicting messages. In fact, the conflict lies here between two strategies: “to be the strongest” and “to be the most humble”. Let me explain :

  • The “law of the jungle” is the first well-known strategy. It’s our automatic mode, a set of principles that puts personal interests first. “Only the fittest will survive” makes us want to grow, to have more or to build a wall to protect ourselves.
  • The “collective genius”* is the second strategy. It says that we cannot succeed alone. We can only achieve better if we are together and we can only respond to complex problems by gathering collective intelligence.

What are powerful strategies?

What are the powerful strategies to make cross-collaboration more natural? I would say, it is the right time to embrace friction since you want to promote efforts that go against human behaviour. So, like your child’s reactions, resistance or opposition will be natural. The good thing is that it is always possible to make efforts to raise the level of consciousness of your people. What you want is to encourage the transition to a less automatic mode of “collective genius”.

These are useful strategies that I’m using:

– Apply the reciprocity standard and demonstrate its benefits. By sharing more, your son invites his sister to share more. In the end, both have more power because they will be able to play with more toys!

– Develop your team players’s skills towards more trust and safety, which Lencioni summarizes best in his book “The Ideal Team Player”

– Give clear instructions and the necessary guidance. Develop a “freedom in a framework” set of rules – i.e. empowerment in a safe environment (internal copyright rules could be a first step).

Use games to put your team players in a situation where they cannot hide their behaviours. Let the culture emerge from the games to be able to hold the right conversations.

– Ensure the transferability of successful cases.

Only by bringing people together to share their knowledge can we solve the complex problems of today. Our goal as leaders or consultants is to reduce barriers and educate employees that they do not have everything to lose. On the contrary, they have everything to gain too.

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* You will find this rule explained in different forms in our literature. For instance, I can recommend these amazing books for further reading : “Superminds”, “Collaborating with the enemy”, “Social Intelligence”, “Radical Collaboration”, “Leading Global Innovation”, “Superpowering People”, “Collaborative Genius” or “Teaming”. To name a few 🙂

Horizontal Cross-Collaboration? More than ever!

Two years ago, I left this blog in standby mode to follow my intuition that the world would need new models for organizations to be more agile and especially collaborative. Today, I am happy to be back to share all my lessons on this passionate topic, that is cross-collaboration.

While the world continues to change, when it comes to cross-collaboration, the pace of change is drastically slow. Our organizations do not seem to be able to respond to current threats. From food security to our pensions schemes, from the protection of nature to the protection of our rights… There is a growing sense of mistrust and fear that affect our everyday lives and our hope for a better future.

If we are all more or less worried, as far as I’m concerned, the last years have also seen me change a lot. I went through an extraordinary development path to affirm my conviction of the solutions to be implemented.

When I experienced cross-collaboration (or horizontal collaboration) in multiple sectors and countries, I found myself stuck in the chaos that occurs when an organization does not give its managers and staff the necessary skills and opportunities to act. I dealt with most of the limitations, challenges and ultimately very lonely struggles that this way of working entails. Breaking the silos (for more fluid communications and efficient processes) without an adequate professional support is detrimental to the well-being of individuals, in the long run. And it has a high cost for organizations – e.g. burn-outs, lack of motivation, mistrust, productivity loss and ultimately failure in reaching organizational goals.

Many organizations around the world have been experimenting cross-collaboration to address today’s challenges. There are many lessons to learn from a range of successful and highly unsuccessful experiences.

From now on, I will be writing regularly again on this blog to share with you my main lessons on how to make horizontal cross-collaboration a sustainable practice for any organisation that wants to seriously tackle the constraints of a world full of surprises.

Follow me as I write about:

  • Trust and psychological safety as the foundation for any true performant and cross-collaborative culture
  • Habits and routines, and why they act as a roadblock for changes
  • Self-serving bias as a hinderer for recognizing the need for change
  • Influencing without formal authority
  • Mastering healthy conflicts
  • The leaderful organization
  • And many more topics!


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Your organisation as a community: Key #2 to your transformation

Collaboration is not an option but a necessity to support performance, innovation and efficiency. Whatever your organisational configuration (Mintzberg), whether it is bureaucratic, entrepreneurial, missionary, adhocratic or professional, you will have to improve collaborations if your goal is to turn your organisation into a community. In fact, without collaboration, no ecosystem can survive long enough to accomplish much.

Key #2: Improve your collaborations

The main challenge found out through a survey I conducted in 2016 at the European Commission  is to improve collaboration in the inter-organisational space. This is where it is perceived as the least effective. Let’s call this type of collaboration “cross-collaboration”. It happens when people collaborate in the Around (not within their teams) and in the Outside with external people. In very complex organisations, the Around can be of a great importance.

Why cross-collaboration fails

“Whether we like it or not, we are led to collaborate beyond our working teams with another service, with our publics, with The “Others”. But we are not good at this…”

The results of my survey reflect a major problem in our organisations today. Cross-collaboration can be weak. There are many reasons for this, for instance:

  • This form of collaboration happens in a space where formal authority can be blurred.
  • People maintain a limited network of relationships outside their usual teams.
  • Employees feel that they need to rely heavily on procedures.
  • There is a perceived lack of trust when collaborating outside formal teams.
  • In this inter-organizational space, members need more than ever to show autonomy, and responsibility – which is not the traditional practice of their organisation.

The power of cross-collaboration

Collaboration means that the traditional top-down model “command-and-control” must give room  to a “collaborate-and-connect” horizontal approach. The benefits of cross-collaboration are numerous: breaking silos, ensuring strategic alignment or increasing synergies and efficiencies.

Unleashing the full potential of cross-collaboration

To be successful, a cross-collaboration process needs more players who are involved, creative and empowered. More active players and less followers, using the leaderful approach described in my previous post.

To achieve this objective, managers need to create more opportunities for cross-collaboration in an “enabling” and “empowering” environment. By promoting a permanent process of relationships construction between people (Falzon), they will make sure to develop collaboration opportunities on top of traditional team collaboration.

“In the 21st century, we must build communities in which everyone shares the experience of being a leader, not sequentially but simultaneously and collectively.” (Realin)

In order to help you remove one by one the barriers to cross-collaboration, together with Yves Monsel, we designed a seminar that allows for enhanced and successful collaboration “with others” addressed to all employees. I invite you to contact me here or on LinkedIn should you want more details.

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Your organization as a community: Key #1 to your transformation

During these last months, I continued to go deep into the subject of organizational transformation. So I got away again from this blog to dedicate myself to this research project that you know is close to my heart. And I’m finally back with some previews for you.

Community management, collaboration, leaderful or distributed leadership, change management,  Generation Y, digital tools adoption…. All our top modern issues are interconnected. Facing us, the organization of tomorrow is not a pile of teams or projects. It is a community. The community management, which is the focus of my book is actually part of a long transformational process that any organisation must undertake in our increasingly complex world.

On this blog, I am going to share two keys to transform an organisation into a community. I hope you will enjoy these new posts and I am looking forward to reading your thoughts as well!

Key n°1 – From Leadership to Leaderful

 Leadership when you hold us

Some leaders tend to make the following assumptions:

  • They are the only ones
  • They should be up even more
  • If they do not do it, another person will do it, and they risk losing their power
  • They must have an answer for everything and for them to say “I do not know” is another way of saying “I am incompetent”

Is that bad? Yes, if it causes stress for them. And even more, in a complex world where no one is able to hold the knowledge required in all circumstances. Super heroes do not exist in real life!

The “leaderful” organisation

Many public and private companies seem to share the same destiny. They work with employees to achieve impossible tasks with too short deadlines assigned by management, which often include less than the nature of the problem. As for the first-line managers, they are often the most overloaded. As a result, employees feel undervalued, underused, and overwhelmed by pervasive labor (busy work) which is often neither productive nor stimulating. The conclusion is obvious: “[…] Leadership is potentially the most desperate problem we face in organisations today. “

Something can change, and change dramatically.

“We need organizations that empower each of their members by giving them the ability and willingness to assume a form of leadership in their relationships with peers, colleagues, customers, suppliers and other partners in ‘organizations’.”


The principles of leaderful

Joseph A. Realin coined the term to describe leaderful which is another vision of the leader and the organisation. He does not claim to have invented the concept, he is just trying to gather under one banner, various approaches.

This is not an approach based on empowerment models or advisory models. This is not a temporary delegation of power by necessity.

“Instead, this approach turns leadership from something that we individually have, to a new paradigm that defines leadership as a collective practice.” 

This is a mutual and shared leadership. Leaderful can be translated by leadership “shared”, “mutual” or “distributed”. It is a letting go rather than a delegation.

Why leaderful?

Whatever the attempts to change the nature of command and the will to better engage employees through quality management, process simplification, learning & development or organisational development, the results will be disappointing. Indeed, as the vertical hierarchical option will not be replaced with a real opportunity to become leaderful, we will continue with some general passivity that, faced with a problem, employees will conclude – you know, I only work here!

“What could be the most leaderful about the manager is not that she takes the reins, but that she encourages others to take them when the situation justifies it. “

man in gray suit playing chess

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Why my book on community management

Today, the multiplication of social and collaborative technologies in the workplace leads many employees to optimize their internal and external networks and become community managers, regardless of their primary responsibilities.

The aim of this practical manual is to offer a broader vision of community management skills that social media have emerged in just 10 years. It aims to help implement effective management of communities of people, regardless of the tools used.

Community management will:

  • improve the responsiveness of organizations through more listening to internal and external partners,
  • seek synergies and complementarity beyond the traditional hierarchies and boundaries of the organization,
  • offer communities the opportunity to play a key role in spreading the positive word of mouth and generate innovation.

The implementation of communities, large or small, formal or informal, and their new working methods become a strategic issue in every sector.
This manual published in French by Politeia editions and available here, is aimed at:

  • People who wish to develop their professional practice towards greater openness and participation,
  • People who have the role of managing collaborative projects among groups of internal or external partners (colleagues, customers, etc.).

It will also be useful for communications professionals and for anyone seeking to better seize the opportunities of the web and the sharing economy.

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Back soon

If you are wondering why I publish much less posts now, rest assured this is only temporary and I will come back in a few weeks with new posts:

  • I have just written a book in French due out soon and you will be the first to be informed of its release date. This is a practical manual on community management skills published by Politeia editions. I am proud of this achievement, I hope you will enjoy reading it. And as I have lots of projects, I intend to continue writing.
  •  I am following a master in training design and consultancy in France, to develop myself further and discover new learning methods. I have always been keen to return to School, I really enjoy this new challenge. In parallel, I am also following a few moocs in the field of Digital.

This is just to tell you that I take a step back only for – I hope – the better 🙂

Feel free to contact me. I will be very happy to stay in touch.

See you soon.