17 Collaboration Improvement
BOOM! - Blowing the Doors off Business-as-Usual
1. Understand why tribes (silos)
• Tribes are a tool for self-preservation
• Tribes provide identity
• Tribes create emotional ties in a
world where people have a deep
need for belonging
• Tribes are anchors, places people can
call home—they provide safety and
• Tribal pride usually causes members
to think their ideas and practices are
• People are typically motivated by
self-interest first, then allegiance to
the tribe and finally loyalty to the
common good of the larger
organization or community
Help to Seek, and Seek Help!
2. Do your homework, become a
To break down the walls of tribalism you have to understand the tribe.
Don’t automatically assume you know them just because they are part of the same
3. Never Burn a Bridge
The person, department or functional area you criticize
today may be the ally you need tomorrow.
Even if you are grinding gears with another part of the
organization, never diminish, disparage or dehumanize
people from another tribe.
Remember the REAL OPPONENT is out there, not in here.
4. In the face of drama, take a step
It’s easy for these folks to stir the pot with “petty preoccupations.”
When drama erupts and the “pot stirrers” in your tribe start
pointing fingers at members of another tribe—don’t get sucked in.
As the old cliché goes, “There are two sides to every story.”
5. Get to “YES” fast.
Focus on what’s working between tribes. People gravitate toward winners.
When you focus on how you have successfully worked with another tribe in the past
you start with a common ”YES,” a common reason for working together again.
6. Create small wins
Small wins have a way of breaking down barriers and busting silo walls.
Small wins create momentum.
It feels good to win and if winning requires the participation of two tribes that have been
“warring” with each other, both tribes now have a reason to work collaboratively
7. Promote meetings between
Something positive happens when people meet together face-to-face.
Thinking and brainstorming together, problem solving together, celebrating
together, and assuming collective responsibility for the organization’s success is a
powerful catalyst for building trust and making collaboration a way of life.
8. Encourage people to socialize
outside of work.
Socializing with co-workers outside the office can open
communication channels, create better understanding
and break down the walls of mistrust—all of which
contribute to lowering our stress.
9. Recognize, reward and celebrate
• Stories of great
collaboration breaks down
the walls of tribalism and
• Attaching performance
metrics and bonuses to
collaborative efforts sends
a very strong message to
everyone about what
values are driving the
10. Create a clear, compelling and
• Make your cause exciting, build a solid business case for what you’re trying to do
and inspire them to care as much as you do.
• People find all kinds of reasons not to work together when they are unclear about
or indifferent to the cause.
11. Make innovation a preeminent
When the bar for innovation is set extremely high and
creative breakthroughs are an expected part of the culture,
people have no choice but to start silo-busting.
12. Brand everyone as a junction
box for knowledge.
Accelerating the flow of knowledge in a company is the result of players who build a network of
cross-functional relationships within the organization, throughout the industry and around the
13. Think systemically.
• It’s easy to objectify and
oversimplify other people’s
• Or maybe we don’t oversimplify
their job, maybe we are just
going 90 mph with hair on fire
and our focus is myopic.
• In either case, systemic thinking
can shatter the walls of
tribalism because it forces us to
look at things from their
perspective and see the
organization as a whole.
14. Walk a mile.
1. Create opportunities for people from different parts of the organization to work together.
2. Establish a rotation system where employees can work in another area to develop empathy
and gain a big picture perspective.
3. Invite people from other departments into your team meetings for an outsider/insider point
15. Ask the tough questions.
1. What are the top 10 things we do to make it difficult for you to do your jobs?
2. If you were running our department or business unit what would you do differently?
3. How can we make the “handoff” to you more seamless?
4. If we were easy to do business with what would that look like?
16. Let the customer weigh in.
Most customers are more
aware of tribalism than you
think, because they
consequences of it!!
If you really want to get people’s attention, invite several
customers into your organization to talk about where the
ball gets dropped, how this impacts them and how they
feel about it.
17. Honor requests – keep your
•Most requests and promises are held sacred
promises. within the tribe, but considered optional
•Taking a request from another tribe seriously
and doing what you say you are going to do goes
a long way toward building trust and blurring
Can I count on you? Will you be there when I need you?
Do you care about this as much as we do?
Remember – it’s a
Start Small, but cover the distance!