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Silos, Politics and Turf Wars: A leadership fable about destroying the barriers that turn colleagues into competitors





Book: 'Silos, Politics and Turf Wars: A leadership fable about destroying the barriers that turn colleagues into competitor'

Author: Patrick Lencioni

Publisher: Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint, 2006


Leader Values


Management consultant Patrick Lencioni specialises in writing leadership fables – those realistic but fictional tales, which sound uncannily like our own work place. As with any type of fable, they are very readable. But they also have a surprising ability to get around our normal defences, forcing us to confront problems that we would normally ignore.


Lencioni’s previous leadership fables include Death by Meeting (see review on this website) and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. These books addressed some of the interpersonal and behavioural problems that turn up when teams of people try to work together smoothly and effectively. In Silos, Politics and Turf Wars Lencioni tackles a larger and more difficult challenge: How to get the entire organisation to work together for the common good. That requires more than just good team work.


Almost every sizable organisation has trouble dealing with silo problems. These hide behind many different names, including departmental politics, infighting, divisional rivalry and turf wars. They might show up as conflict between headquarters and field offices, or between sales and engineering, or as gridlocked leadership team meetings. But the end result is always the same – colleagues are turned into competitors, fighting instead of working together to meet the organisation’s common goals.


These turf wars are usually so firmly entrenched in the organisation that we can easily feel helpless when it comes to dealing with them. Relatively few books deal with the issue, but Patrick Lencioni has cheerfully decided to walk where angels fear to tread.


The central character in Silos, Politics and Turf Wars is a young, entrepreneurial marketing manager who leaves a company torn by internal divisions to become a consultant. Before long, he discovers that most of his clients have the same need – how to deal with silos in their organisation. As his career and his home life both become increasingly complicated and unstable, our hero realises that his key challenge is to find a solution to “the silo thing”.


He picks up some ideas from a visit to hospital, in which he notices with interest that there is no departmental rivalry in the Emergency Room. His ideas are further refined by a meeting at a company which experienced a major crisis a few years ago – and has no silo problems today. Of course, the simple answer is that there is no time to worry about inter-departmental politics during a crisis. But how do you apply that idea to an organisation which isn’t experiencing a crisis right now?


After a few crises of his own, the hero discovers the solution and everything turns out happily in the end. As usual, Lencioni finishes the book with a theoretical section, explaining in a more structured way how to deal with turf wars at work. This is worthwhile reading for all leaders trying to break down barriers in their organisation. 

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