Silos, Politics and Turf Wars: A Leadership Fable About Destroying the Barriers That Turn Colleagues Into Competitors – A Book Review

Summary: An easy to read business book using the fable style. While it mentions Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars, it really focuses on Silos. Perhaps the author sees them as the same, but I don’t believe that is the case. It is easy to read and provides a solution at the end. If you like fable style business books, this is worth a read.

Detail Review: Patrick Lencioni published Silos, Politics and Turf Wars: A Leadership Fable About Destroying the Barriers That Turn Colleagues Into Competitors in 2006. It is one of his many (11+) best sellers.

Silos book

I normally start with aesthetics. The book is 211 pages with a blue/green cover. In the middle is a bottom up angled picture of three buildings i.e. silos. Its a somewhat nondescript cover. The writing is easy to read and chunked into small page increments. I can’t remember more than 5 pages being before a break. And often times a chapter was only 2 or 3 pages.

Before reading the book I jotted down my expectations. This is with little knowledge of the writer or the use of the fable style. Here is what I wrote:

  • Silos are built on authority, control, and decision rights
  • I’m not sure what the solution is other than to identify them
  • Some of it is driven by the need to execute
  • There is a need to collaborate
  • Its a fine line between execution and collaboration

Before I get to the fable, I really liked the introduction and the Use Cases and tools at the end. These portions of the book really framed the action for the reader.

The story follows Jude Cousins. He begins as a board level executive at Hatch, a software company. Early in the story he decides to go it alone. He begins with general consulting and has some success but he realizes that he needs a niche.

The story follows his path as Cousins Consulting. He has a family to care for and must navigate an economic downturn. He serves his clients well, too well. He works himself out of a job.

During the story are some subtleties I like. One of which was for Jude to learn from a client who said they didn’t have a problem with silos. Most business books unintentionally make it sound like there is some secret they know. Some insight, some magic. But the short anecdote about using JMJ as a learning opportunity was a nice curveball. It shows that sometimes you have to admit you don’t know. And to look in creative places for answers.

After some tribulations Cousins Consulting finds its footing with breaking down silos. The recipe for it is explained in the narrative at Batch Technologies, the aforementioned merged company. Jude creates a rallying cry called Thematic Goals. This and more detail is explained at the end of the book.

Ultimately, the lesson is one of shared goals. Lencioni believes in executive management establishing thematic goals. He then suggests creating definition (objectives). For example, at Batch Technologies, the company he was once a part of, the rallying cry was to Complete the Merger and Launch the New Company. This gave the executives a single mission. There were sub objectives to it. For example, eliminate redundant expenses and fill key roles. These were the defining objectives.

Toward the end of the book he transitions from the fable and to an instructional tone. He advises having a scorecard and allowing for debate. The debate centers around how the performance and priorities reinforce the thematic goals. He wants peer pressure and team building to enfold where everyone is in it together.

Does it meet my expectations? Somewhat, but it isn’t really that type of book. As fable style it is more about context. A journey to a solution the Table Group (Patrick Lencioni) has devised.

In a related piece, the Harvard Business Review published a story called How to Orchestrate Change from the Bottom Up by Katherine C. Kellogg. Its a story of change but aspects of it fit with how peer pressure and how shared goals drive lasting change. My favorite part of the article was how the medical assistants used particular phrasing to influence doctors who were reluctant to try new methods.

In my early career I built a program that addressed silos. It was at a large bank which had many mergers. There were different factions each had their way of doing things. Unfortunately our costs were too high. This program was a means to drive simplification across the technology organization. To be successful I used a few principles. One of which was make decisions as objectively as possible. Another was to enable the teams to come to their own conclusions. If I wanted sustainability, I needed them to buy in. Giving them a voice, a part of the decision making process, was part of it. I ensured it was fact based. While not the rallying cry that Lencioni endorses, it was effective. The silos, while present, were not destructive.

Conclusion: I read the book a couple of times. I’ve given it some time. It is easy to read and rather direct with its message. But ultimately this style isn’t for me. For those who like the narrative, or fable, style it is well done. And at the end it does give you an approach for breaking down silos. But as someone who has done it, I guess I wanted more.

April 2020 Jobs Report and Wages

I started doing the monthly Job Report again because this is unique. A pandemic of this magnitude is new to us. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it.

Below are the numbers. Also included are comparisons to last month’s initial run (March was revised down) and one of the worst month of the 2008 Financial Crises.

*Quick note about the 2008 Financial Crises. It was brewing for a few years and the recession actually started in 2007. The slowing due to the pending recession is what caused the glue and popsicle sticks to buckle in 2008. But like practically all downturns, the job losses were lagging. There were a string of months in 2009 which were ghastly. I’m using one for the comparison, but will revisit it once this health crisis has abated. One more note on 2009, the first job gain was in November of 2009… after 23 months of losses. The unemployment rate reached 10.2%

Here are the job market and compensation numbers for April, 2020 (based on the job report):

Net loss of 20,500,000 jobs in the month

  • Analysts expected an overall drop of 21,500,000
  • Private sector payrolls decreased by 19,520,000
  • Private service producing industries shed 17,165,000
  • Goods producing industries shrank by 2,355,000
  • For comparison, the months of January, February, and March of 2009 averaged well over 700,000 job losses a month. It was catastrophic and other than the Great Depression, unheard of. To put a fine point on it, April saw over 20 Million jobs lost.

 

  • March was revised to a loss of 870,000 from an original reading of 710,000
  • February was revised to a gain of 230,000 from an original reading of 275,000
  • Payroll processor ADP reported an employment loss of 20,200,000 jobs (it was a loss of 27,000 jobs in March 2020)

 

  • 939,000 people are considered long term unemployed (jobless for more than 6 months). It was 1.2 million people in March 2020 and it was 6.1 million in March of 2011
  • Employers announced plans to cut 671,129 jobs, the highest single-month total on record. Announced plans to cut were 222, 280 jobs in March. It was the most since January of 2009.

 

Unemployment rate rose to 14.7%. It was 4.4% in March, 2020, and 8.5% in March of 2009

  • The labor participation rate is 60.2%. It was 62.7% in March, 2020
  • The employment to population ratio is 51.3%. It was 60.0% in March, 2020
  • The U-6 report, which is a broader group to count (workers who are part time but want to be full time and discouraged worker), increased to 22.8%. It was 8.7% from 7.0% last month
  • PMI, a measure of manufacturing pace, is 41.5%. It was 49.1% in March, 2020. This was after a 131 months of expansion. Anything above 50% means the machines are running
  • Service sector activity dropped to 41.8%. It was 52.5% in March 2020.

 

Specific Segment Job numbers:

  • Manufacturing down 1,300,000. It was down 18,000 jobs in March 2020, and lost 161,000 in March, 2009
  • Construction lost 975,000 jobs. It was a loss of 29,000 jobs (averaged an increase of 17,583 jobs a month over the last year), it was a loss of 126,000 jobs in March, 2009
  • Retailers lost 2,100,000 jobs. 46,000 jobs were lost in March, 2020, and a loss of 48,000 in March of 2009
  • Leisure and Hospitality Services lost 7,700,000 jobs or 47% of the industry. It was a loss of 459,000 jobs in March, 2020, and was a loss of 40,000 jobs in 2009
  • Government sector declined by 980,000. It rose 18,000 in March 2020, and a loss of 5,000 in March, 2009
  • Education and Health Services dropped by 2,500,000 jobs. It was a loss of 76,000 jobs in March, 2020Health Care and Social Assistance lost 2,086,900. It was a loss of 61,200 in March.
    • Health Care grew by 14,000 in March of 2009
  • Professional and Business Services down by 2,165,000. It was down by 52,000 in March, 2020.
    • 841,900 jobs lost in Temporary Help. It was 49,500 jobs lost in March, 2020

 

Wage (can be revised):

  • The average weekly paycheck (seasonally adjusted) is $1,026.34. It was $977.65 in March, 2020. It was $614.20 in March, 2009
  • The average hourly earnings (seasonally adjusted) is $30.01. It was $28.62 in March, 2020
  • Average weekly hours and overtime of production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls by industry sector, seasonally adjusted is 33.5. It was 33.4 hours in March, 2020. It was 33.2 in March, 2009.

Bureau of Labor Statistics

March 2020 Job Report and Wages

Its been years since I last did an analysis of the jobs report. I initially did them before the 2008 Financial Crisis and several years after. 2009 was an interesting year to watch the numbers. I was lucky. I had a job.

For the last 10 years the jobs report has shown steady improvements.

Now is a new time. The numbers for March 2020 were a mix, mostly bad. The COVID-19 virus had just started to influence American businesses when the survey was taken. I anticipate April 2020 will parallel some of the worst months of 2009.

Here are the job market and compensation numbers for March 2020 (based on the job report):
Net loss of 701,000 jobs in the month

  • Analysts expected an overall drop of 84,000
  • Private sector payrolls decreased by 713,000
  • Private service producing industries shed 659,000
  • Goods producing industries shrank by 54,000

 

  • February was revised to a gain of 275,000 from an original reading of 273,000
  • January was revised to a gain of 214,000 from a reading of a 273,000 gain
  • Payroll processor ADP reported an employment loss of 27,000 jobs

 

  • 1.2 million people have been jobless for more than 6 months (long term unemployed) – it was 6.1 million in March of 2011
  • Employers announced plans to cut 222, 280 jobs in March. It was the most since January of 2009

 

Unemployment rate rose to 4.4%

  • The labor participation rate is 62.7% – a decrease of 0.7% in the month
  • The employment to population ratio is 60.0% – a drop of 1.1%
  • The U-6 report, which is a broader group to count (workers who are part time but want to be full time and discouraged worker), increased to 8.7% from 7.0% last month
  • PMI, a measure of manufacturing pace, is 46.6%. Anything above 50% means the machines are running
  • Service sector activity dropped to 52.5%, down from 57.3% last month. Holding relatively positive. A reading in the low 40s was expected

 

Specific Segment Job numbers:

  • Manufacturing down 18,000 jobs
  • Construction lost 29,000 jobs – averaged an increase of 17,583 jobs a month over the last year
  • Retailers lost 46,000 jobs
  • Leisure and Hospitality Services lost 459,000 jobs – this wiped out two years of gains
  • Government sector rose 18,000, 17,000 hired for census work
  • Education and Health Services dropped by 76,000 jobs
      • Health Care and Social Assistance lost 61,200
  • Professional and Business Services down by 52,000
      • 49,500 jobs lost in Temporary Help

 

Wage (can be revised):

  • The average weekly paycheck (seasonally adjusted) is $978.80
  • The average hourly earnings (seasonally adjusted) is $28.62 – an increase of 11 cents from last month (it was $19.30 in March of 2011)
  • Average weekly hours and overtime of production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls by industry sector, seasonally adjusted is 33.4 hours

 

Bureau of Labor Statistics