How to Turn “Silos” into a Culture of Conversation

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Originally posted January 10, 2012

Is your church truly unified in mission, vision and strategy? Or are you, as Bill Hybels once said of Willow Creek Community Church, “a loose federation of ministries orbiting around the central church?”

Culture of Conversation

If you suspect that this “siloing” effect has taken root in your church here are three small but important steps you can take today to replace silos with a “culture of conversation”.

1. End the practice of inter-office email
In the large church where I served as executive pastor we implemented this 3-step plan, starting with “no more inter-office email” without first walking over to their department.

2. Replace “All Staff” emails with staff meeting conversations
I was shocked in my first weeks at that church how many emails circulated daily to all staff. (“Email to all staff: Has anyone seen the 3-hole punch?”)

In place of these manifestos I insisted that such “news” be shared face to face in our staff weekly meetings.

3.   Model the discipline of face-to-face dialogue
Throughout my day as questions arose I kept an ongoing “log” with each staff person’s name. Next to each name I would jot down a list of questions as they popped up. These would include items of a personal nature, such as remembering to inquire about the status of a sick loved one, etc.

Then twice a day, usually 9:00 am and 3:00 pm, I would “make my rounds”. I would visit every corner of the campus and find myself in conversation with staff from every department and every level, from department heads to grounds-keepers.

Invariably I wouldn’t bump into everyone I wanted to see, and in those cases alone I would follow up with an email. But I would start such notes by saying, “Sorry I missed you…Please call or drop by, I’d like to discuss…”

My goal in all this was to replace what I termed “the emptiness of email” with “a culture of conversation”.

And it worked.

If you suspect that over-reliance on email has contributed to silos in your organization, give these steps a shot.

Perhaps a “culture of conversation” is just what your team needs.

How have you tackled silos in your organization?

the author

Scott Cochrane

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