A black bull stands next to a tall silo in rural Illinois.

Silo Working – Tractor Beam Is On Full Power.

It might be more advantageous to recognise that construction project players don’t just suddenly end up ‘in silos’ – they were on an inevitable collision course.

It would be advantageous because we could stop being surprised, stop reacting and start planning a different outcome.

We have not ‘retreated into a silo’ – we were all along, and still are, mostly silo ed with occasional dalliances into inter dependencies.

The silo problem is in the culture, structure and paradigms – not so much the people.

The reason so many construction project teams still find themselves migrating conclusively, ultimately and fatefully into silos is because that is the medium we mostly have swum in and continue to swim in – working independently of our colleagues.

The comfort zone is the silo.

It is here we can be a cosy bed fellow to the status quo of  limited possibility and continue to do what we have always done – and stay away from the bleeding but risky edge of collaboration.

It’s just too damn easy and comfortable to hang out in our professional or organisational silo.

To not be in a silo we have to work outside of it i.e. in the interdependent team. This is problematic because the opportunities to do that are limited and our industry is resistant to it – through procurement to project execution.

Even after  major collaborative procurement exercises, most professions slip quickly, quietly and unconsciously into silo working and tribalism. That is the continued challenge.

Silo working is likely a function of our human nature to be tribal. That does not spell disaster for the typical multi player construction Team. On the contrary, work done to create that group into its own tribe is the goal and a powerful result once accomplished.

Humans like tribes – we just have to be mindful of which ones we have created and question whether they serve or hinder us.

Lets be clear, without the focussed work random, uncontrolled tribalism will occur.

How do we make silos less attractive and predictable?

  1. Pose the question from the start – “On this project, we are and will be silo-ed – how do we break out of that paradigm?
  2. Make the Project Team the Tribe with compelling performance goals. (Not mission statements)
  3. Give silo working a consequence. (People don’t change until the pain of change become less than the pain of staying the same).
  4. Collaborative Technology makes it more difficult to silo when information is being freely shared.
  5. Stop every few months, get out of day to day business, measure the team inter dependency, change, start. No measure – no change.

No one can say they are surprised that the team has gone silo –  if they have not done the work to build the interdependent tribe.


Paul Fox

Paul Fox has been active as a Construction Industry Performance Coach for the last 20 years and remains at the forefront of Collaborative Working and High Performance Team Behaviours. He disrupts the status quo of individuals, project and senior teams who want exponentially more output with much less struggle.

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