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Silo Conditioning

Overview

In this day and age of heightened efficiency, productivity, and streamlined workflow, laboratories as well as organizations frequently become conditioned into only concerning themselves with the daily processes in their direct environment, and not the global perspective and goals of the company. When this happens, the individual environment becomes a ‘silo’ and can soon become detached from the corporate goals and thus operating as an independent entity within the company. This session will discuss the positive and negative effects of ‘silos’,specifically at the micro level of lab sections, departments, and even management.

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Learning Objectives :

  1. Identify ‘silos’ in an organization.
  2. Learn how silo conditioning leads to stagnation and a severe challenge to growth and development in the lab.
  3. Understand why it is important for managers to consistently remind employees of the value they provide in helping the organization meet and exceed their goals.

Webinar Transcription

Herbert “Skip” Brown, M. Div., HT (ASCP):

The speaker has over 39 years of experience in the field of histotechnology (technical histology concerned especially with preparing and processing by means of sectioning, fixing, and staining histological specimens). 30 of those years were spent in supervisory or management positions. He’s designed and managed laboratory systems in the past and is very interested in the integration of instrumentation into the workflow of the lab model.

The objectives of the webinar are: Learning the literal definition of silos and how it applies to organizational management; understanding the positives and negatives associated with silos; understanding the concept of the ‘paradox of knowledge & independence’ and how it leads to a ‘silo mentality’ among employees; learning how to identify silos or the potential for silo formation; learning how/why silos must be systematically broken down; and understanding that it is a supervisory & management imperative to address and continually manage silos.

Defining silos. They are usually traditionalistic, standing apart from the rest of the farm. They’re insulated from outside forces. This can be used to describe how different departments, shifts, and even individuals often become isolated from others, working alone instead of with the other department, shift, or coworkers. Silos are comfortable, they give security, they’re very non-threatening. Unfortunately, this mentality can cause short-sighted vision, one becomes concerned only with the environment of their silo. It’s counterproductive – it compromises lab workflow. If one silo is working for the benefit of itself and not working with the others, the lab flow is compromised and won’t run as smoothly or as efficiently as the other.

Identifying silos in healthcare. Silo mentality occurs when departments or management groups do not share information, goals, tools, priorities, and processes with other departments. This mentality is believed to impact operations, reduce moral of employees, and may add to the overall failure of a company or its products.

The positives and negatives of silos. A positive impact is when knowledge is concentrated within a department or section – this creates experts on certain subjects. But when it isolates individuals, sections, or departments into one aspect of the organization, it comes at the expense of a cross-functional cooperation and goals such as timely patient care become harder to achieve. A negative impact happens when the individual or lab section prioritizes their own goals over those of other sections, sometimes even over the whole lab. This can result in missed or failed opportunities for communication. Dysfunction often follows. Global mission is lost.

Highlighting the paradigm of knowledge and independence. When you come to a job with a certain ignorance, a lack of information. You’re ignorant to the way they do things at the facility you’re at. You become programmed. Then you develop some independence. You become self-oriented and independent. That’s a good thing for the organization and you. Knowledge and interdependence follow. Organizational silos are risk management, operations, human resources, and finance. Hospital lab silos are lab management, clinical lab, anatomic pathology, and quality safety. Histopathology silos are accessioning, gross room, embedding, and microtomy.

Silo mentality is generally seen as a top-down issue arising from competition between managers. The protective attitude towards information begins with management and is passed down to individual employees. No matter the reasons, a silo mentality exists because senior management allows it to exist. Managers of successful firms and laboratories generally encourage the free flow of information between departments and intra-departmental sections so that all aspects of the company can function effectively. The lack of intra-departmental communication and training can negatively impact workflow, as information is not passed freely across the department or organization. This can leave some departments working with inaccurate or out-of-date information, and laboratories with limited resources (employees) that have knowledge and experience in key critical areas. A silo mentality inevitably damages morale, especially when employees become aware of the problem and are unable to do anything to change it.

There is a right way to manage a silo. It’s difficult, because people are conditioned to a norm, it can be traumatic, it breeds confusion and disorientation among other things. Breaking down a silo never goes as expected, there is always collateral damage. Clean-up is extensive and time consuming. The psychology of change is shock, denial, blame, anger, uncertainty, acceptance, then planning and action. Managers must remain committed to the goal and to the team. Respect their feelings and anxiety, stay involved in the change, monitor and constantly assess, and communicate with their team regularly. They must develop a plan and stick with it to tear down the silo mentality and restore functionality to their department and/or organization.

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