Yin to the yang, left brain/right brain, marketing/financial, creative/analytical. All of these represent opposites in the world of business. But are we really left with a choice between the two, or is there another way? Dualism may be the answer.
See if the following scenario sounds familiar to you. A marketing team, in conjunction with their agency, comes up with a new idea for their company. It’s a killer idea; on brand, consumers will love it, it will bring in new revenue and allow the company to extend relationships and attract new customers. The problem? The finance and operations teams are brought in only to discover that the idea doesn’t hold water. Too capital intensive to implement with limited resources.
Or this, a management consulting firm is brought in to assess growth options for the business. In addition to the cost-cutting measures and efficiency gains they find, they propose an idea that looks great financially. The idea optimizes production capacities and will provide great margin once it gets going. The problem? It’s an idea that will never fly with consumers. The idea requires that the brand moves into space where it has no consumer permission.
Hypothetical? Nope. It’s fair to say that the first example happens at least on a monthly basis at companies across America. The second example frequently happens too. Famously, one of the foremost management consulting firms recommended to Sears that they reposition their brand to be a more like a department store. Remember “The softer side of Sears?” Any good brand marketing person would have been able to tell them that consumers would never think of Sears as a department store, but it looked good on paper.
Why does this happen so often in business? The answer is a silo mentality. The Silo Mentality as defined by the Business Dictionary is a mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. This type of mentality will reduce efficiency in the overall operation, reduce morale, and may contribute to the demise of productive company culture.
If GE can’t do it…
Some companies have tried to fix the problem. Twenty-Five years ago, Jack Welch, then CEO of GE, was convinced that the speed of globalization and technological innovation in the 21st century would require companies to work very differently – with shorter decision cycles, more employee engagement, and stronger collaboration than had previously been required to compete. He advocated for a “boundary-less organization,” and to build it, he initiated what became known as the GE Work-Out process – a series of structured and facilitated forums, bringing people together across levels, functions, and geographies to solve problems and make decisions in real time. And while GE had success under Welch and for a time, was innovative, the Work-Out process did not become part of the culture of the company, and its success was short-lived.
The pace of change makes joining the left-brained and right-brained folks together more important now than ever.
What to do
But if it’s such a monumental shift in culture to work across silos, at least we need to be able to work cross-functionally for important initiatives like growth and innovation. Critical initiatives like this can be made easier by working with consultants who can facilitate this type of collaboration. Blending financial and operations with marketing and brand will yield better results, faster and for less money. It’s also important to work with a senior consultant team who can get to the answers more quickly and cost efficiently.
In my last post, I discussed the limitations of internal innovation groups. Many are cross-functional but do not always work well together. An outside facilitator can often help.
To summarize, here are the top 3 things that MUST happen to maximize growth and innovation initiatives:
1. Bring the Yin and the Yang together
Marketing and finance/operations must work together
2. Strive to eliminate organizational silos…
…but short-cut them when you must
3. Bring in outside facilitators who can bring internal teams together
Senior consultants who have successfully bridged the divide are invaluable.
Competition and the pace of change, demand that we give ourselves the best chance to succeed. Breaking down silos can help get to a better strategy more efficiently.
Dirk Defenbaugh is a growth and innovation consultant with Venn Growth Collective. The VENN team is based on a simple but powerful idea: effective strategies are created through the integration of financial and operational business planning and compelling consumer value propositions and creative brand positioning. This holistic approach requires a collaborative team of highly skilled experts across business strategy, customer experience design, technology and digital consulting, brand strategy and design. Follow us @VENNgrowthCo