Book Review

Silos, Politics and Turf Wars

by Patrick Lencioni, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 2006, 211 pp., $22.95 hardcover

A danger in recommending that someone read a Patrick Lencioni book is that he so accurately captures the self-defeating things people do that readers may take his criticism personally for the many “oops, I do that!” moments. Fortunately, before the reader can feel too guilty, Lencioni’s leadership fables like Five Dysfunctions of a Team or Death by Meeting offer solid, practical suggestions to resolve the problems he reveals.

This time Lencioni attacks turf wars or silos, which he defines as “the barriers that exist between departments within an organization, causing people who are supposed to be on the same team to work against one another.”

Lencioni’s fictional consultant finds the answers when he looks at high-pressure operations like emergency rooms or companies that have moved beyond crises that could have destroyed them. After reviewing various situations, he discovers these elements for overcoming the problems: a thematic goal, defining objectives, ongoing standard operating procedures and metrics for assessment. A key step is to convince leaders to “take off your functional hats and think about yourselves as generic leaders without ties to any one department” and to focus on the thematic goal without losing sight of the day-to-day operations.

A thematic goal is defined as “a single, qualitative focus that is shared by the entire leadership team — and ultimately, by the entire organization — and that applies for only a specified time period.” It isn’t a long-term vision or a set of tactical objectives. A thematic goal bridges those two important pieces “by making the vision more tangible and by giving tactical objectives more contex,” Lencioni says.

Unlike his previous fables, which focused on single operations, Silos, Politics and Turf Wars uses several different companies to tell the story. It also gives case studies of a diverse range of businesses and issues to demonstrate how he would put his theory to work and how the reader could apply the concepts to almost any organization.

Reviewed by Bob Schultz, superintendent, Eureka Union School District, Granite Bay/Roseville, Calif.