Article (January-2021)


Functional Heads should break their silos

Mihir Gosalia

Designation : -  

Organization : -  Mumbai


10516 Total View        

1. I think that the issue has to do with the overall organizational work culture, the working habits, the way it has been built, systemized or ingrained and the way all are working right now. It seems that everyone is working in isolation. There is employee disconnect and disengagement. If we see from the case study, all the 4 dept. heads present in the meeting, Rajendra from sales, Sharad from service, Meghna from HR and Shaily from finance, they were just speaking from their functional viewpoint. They were just concerned with their own problems only and as rightly thought out by Varun, nobody was looking at the organisation's problem from a holistic viewpoint, 360 degree view. It seems that Finance thought that it's role is to just present data and let others explain the analysis part. Finance could have also questioned why sales are down or why people are leaving and what is being done about it. There was no cross-pollination of ideas or solutions coming out from the meeting discussions. And also the discussions were very biased and focused on specific current pandemic scenario only. It was as if this is an excuse or an alibi to get away with poor performance.

Some blame of it lies with Varun also, young, visionary, dynamic and aggressive CEO, who believes speedy execution coupled with results is the key in staying ahead of competition. Even during lockdown, he was seen devising strategies and action plans for the future and also how to tap new customers. While Varun as the CEO firmly focused on the future of the organisation, how to take it forward, he also needed to keep his eye firmly on the ground and be in touch with it's realities too, what is happening at the ground level, the employees who are customer facing and what are the day to day challenges. It is one thing to sit at the top and devise strategies and quite another thing to execute them when not matched with realities. If Varun had given some of his time and attention to address these operational challenges as compared to leaving his heads mend the fences on their own, then perhaps the scenario would have been a bit different. He may not have to call for a cup of coffee along with a tablet for headache after realizing that an hour of meeting was wasted and there were more problems than solutions.

2. No, Varun should not accept all the suggestions from his dept. heads of restoring the incentives, increasing headcounts and investing in motivational training. By doing so, he will only be addressing the sporadic problems or giving short term solutions. The chronic problem underlying the organisation or long - term solution, some of it as highlighted above will still not be addressed. Also Varun needs assurance from his functional heads that were their suggestions accepted, is there guarantee that sales or revenue will increase, people will not leave after investing in their training and capacity building, etc. If that is not forthcoming, there is no change in mindset of the people, they are still besieged by problems mindset and not solutions-oriented, then no amount of money invested in training, bringing in new manpower or giving rewards will lead to sudden transformation or change in business fortunes of Highway Movers.
Also as seen from the case study, it seems that the Heads/Managers didn't show commitment to promote workplace health and safety. HR was more interested in organizing a motivational training. Employee engagement and performance are the highest when employees are mentally prepared for their return to work and their managers demonstrate a commitment to promoting workplace health and safety. Both employees and managers have important roles to play when it comes to making sure employees are engaged and productive post-lockdown. So, what does it take to keep yourself - and your team - engaged in these trying times, this what Varun and his team should be looking at answering as that is the need of the hour?

3. Varun should first take a moment to acknowledge the fact that lockdowns have been extremely disruptive to many people's work. He should not try to jump right back into the daily grind without pausing to reflect and reconnect. Past research has shown that employees returning to work after large-scale disruptive, traumatic events may have trouble staying focused at work, and that some readjustment is often necessary. To foster engagement post-lockdown, it's important to make sure that one is not just physically ready, but also mentally prepared to return to work which could also be the case with employees at Highway Movers and seen by the fact that many of them left the organisation post work resumption on first opportunity. It is very helpful when employees spend some time reviewing their past progress, setting priorities for upcoming goals, and creating short- and long-term to-do lists for themselves. Varun could look at doing that exercise with his functional heads team. This way they will be discussing solutions and strategies and action plans as compared to problems. This may also lead to change in employee's mindset and their engagement levels with the organisation may increase.Varun should look at aligning all decision makers. Decisions are often made in a shared context. Get his managers together to align on the most important issues facing the organisation and be explicit about how to resolve them.Varun can look at setting up a Centre of Excellence (COE) department within the organisation. The role of that department would be to provide guidance/support to all functional heads in addressing their daily operational issues by deploying systematic problem - solving tools. Role of COE will be to bring in a culture of discipline & excellence within the organisation because that's what Varun's mindset seems attuned to, however he is unable to percolate it to down the line people due to his pre-occupation with driving business growth for Highway Movers. COE can also do analysis of customer facing issues and present a monthly report to all because ultimately Customer is King and one should be aware as to how their work in the organisation is affecting the end and ultimate user i.e. the Customer. This may also resolve Varun's challenge that his team should look at the organisation from a holistic point of view and not individualistic. Lastly all the activities/projects undertaken by COE should be linked to Business Results so that it also does not become just another department working in silos. That precaution to be ensured right from the beginning, at the time of setup.

Mihir Gosalia