Before Breaking Down Silos, Connect Them

By Jonathan Morgan

single-vs-multi-plan-management-blog

Before Breaking Down Silos, Connect Them

By Jonathan Morgan


As a testament to effective marketing, the word “silo” has become a feared term in the plan execution world. However, silos are necessary for a growing business to focus and specialize. What many don’t realize is success relies on the way you connect those silos when managing multiple plans. The pay-off? Get the high-level visibility you need to make better decisions.

When Does Tracking Plans in Excel Become a Risk?

It’s no secret that organizations often have projects and data that have been sealed off from each other. Truth is, as organizations grow, it’s actually more impactful to develop expertise in certain areas of the business to maximize efficiency.

The real challenge of siloed work is introduced when needing to report and analyze across plans.

Working in silos can help manage one thing at a time. One project, one plan, one project management spreadsheet or project management dashboard; and the list goes on.

What leaders fail to realize is siloed project management reaches critical mass as additional projects enter the fold.

To make informed decisions, you need the big picture. You need data from every project, not just one. Tracking one singular project quickly turns into tracking metrics from multiple initiatives – which then turns into overwhelming Excel files with 20 tabs and no overall visibility. It becomes impossible to answer the question, “How are we doing overall?”

This is when using Excel to track more than one plan becomes a risk.

Silos Are a Scapegoat, Not the Core Problem

So, who’s the first to blame when problems undoubtably arise? Well of course, everyone’s favorite scapegoat of the moment – those evil silos!

And this is where organizations go wrong. It’s not the silos themselves that cause issues, but how organizations manage the silos.

When goals aren’t achieved, a typical organizational response is an immediate effort to break down silos, not anticipating that even more compartments will be created, just at a different level of the organization.

Imagine, as a department VP, you can’t see the overall breakdown of where each of your managers are on or off track with their initiatives, so you ask them to compile all their high-level data into one report. In turn, each of those managers needs a finite way to track their own team’s plans in greater detail, so they’ll further segment out the project-level work their team is doing in a system separate from how they’re reporting up to you. People need a hierarchy that can be collapsed and expanded so they can see the exact level of information they need to do their daily work.

Instead of storming in and breaking down partitions, find ways to connect those silos across the organization. High-performing organizations use tools that allow them to see all the high-level data they need siphoned off from each major subdivision, while still being able to drill down into details on demand.

3 Ways to Optimize Plan Management

Excel is fine for managing single plans, but when you’ve got multiple processes at stake, you need a better tool. Enabling cross-plan visibility in a single platform is the key ingredient to effectively managing multiple plans to make more informed organizational decisions.

Here are three stepping-stone strategies the highest-performing organizations employ to shift processes around managing multiple plans:

Combine Project Tracking to Fill the Gap in Insights

When plans are managed in silos, the results can only be seen independently. This leaves a huge gap in how leaders can see progress across the entire organization.

Instead of reporting out on the detailed elements of each project individually, focus on how projects and plans as a collective unit are performing as a whole.

Dashboards help most with this; the ability to see initiatives’ statuses in a pie chart is extremely powerful. But that’s what business intelligence (BI) tools fall short; leaders also need the option to access finer details to get context around what’s producing results and what’s not – and why.

Connect Activities and Outcomes

In many organizations, the data sits in one location (BI system or data warehouse) while the activities (projects) lie elsewhere. This disconnect leads many organizations to work aimlessly and perform more of a “box-checking” exercise than true, strategic work. If you think your organization falls outside the typical statistics around poor plan and strategy execution, ask yourself the following questions: “Are we simply completing projects and initiatives as fast as we can? Or are we truly accomplishing the results for which these projects are being undertaken?”

For most organizations, it’s common to fall into execution mode without connecting activities to outcomes.

When tracking and reporting progress, it’s essential to identify the KPIs and quantifiable outcomes connected with organizational plans and projects so you have something to measure against. It’s one thing to know the status of an initiative, but a truly game changing insight to understand the contextual impact on key company-wide outcomes.

Align Priorities

When organizations track progress in silos, it’s very likely that their priorities are siloed as well. One person’s activities may be scattered across individual plans, or no single plan manager has insight into the initiatives of other teams. In many cases, this leaves organizations accidentally working either in completely opposite directions or duplicating efforts across the organization.

Successful organizations connect all their silos under a common vision and plan, guiding the organization forward. Not only does this increase focus and efficiency, but it has a long-standing effect on organizational culture, through increasing team member buy-in and commitment.

By creating a culture of execution with alignment, even the most selfless employees will learn to ask the question “What’s in it for me?” Aligning their work to an overarching outcome and plan will drive long-term engagement, increasing success rates.

Excel Was Not Built to Manage Multiple Plans

Moving forward, instead of using siloed project templates within Excel or project management tools, think critically about how your organization can begin connecting your silos to strike a healthy balance between team-level focus and big-picture visibility. Take a step back and consider how you can transform to manage through a single dashboard and standardized reporting process, instead of continuing with the status quo of a too-many-tabbed Excel spreadsheet.

In our experience, the highest performing organizations find ways to improve their processes by filling the gap in insights, connecting activities to outcomes, aligning priorities effectively, and moving to a tool that is built to manage more than one plan at once.