Say Goodbye to Silos

Guest Blogger: Bruno Rumbelow

Bruno 2009 high resBruno Rumbelow was appointed City Manager of Grapevine, Texas in December, 2005. Prior to becoming the Assistant City Manager of Grapevine in January, 1998, he was the Assistant City Administrator of Fort Smith, Arkansas for four years.

He has served as the City Administrator of Neodesha, Kansas, and the City Manager of Texarkana, Arkansas. Bruno has a Bachelor of Science Degree in History from the University of Texas at Tyler, and a Master of Public Administration Degree from the University of Kansas.

We have a strong group of men and women in key leadership positions in Grapevine. Their individual professional achievements are numerous and span decades of service to the community.  However, as strong as they are individually; collectively, as a team, they are even stronger.  A question City Managers often face is, “Given the fact that there are limited resources, how do we keep departmental leaders focused on the larger goals of the organization?” In other words, How do we create an environment that isn’t dominated by silos? Of course, as long as there are people involved there is always an element of self-interest which can lead to a silo mentality. Managers who focus too much on the idea of scarce resources or a zero sum game can put good people on the defensive which may foster an attitude where MY department is MORE important and therefore DESERVES more of the scarce resource.

While there is not one simple answer to this issue, there are things that leaders can do to get more buy in from folks and help them resist the temptation to hunker down in a silo. The one I will focus on – and the more critical one – in my opinion, is to make sure that the folks we entrust to manage our departments are kept informed and involved in the major decisions of the organization. Involvement gets them engaged in the work of the City beyond their department and in return we get more brainpower to solve the issues that face us. City government is a collective effort (Citizens, Mayor and Council, Management and Employees) and as such those who work in it function much more productively if they work together by sharing resources, ideas and talents. Once you invite others to the table and begin to work your way through the difficult issues facing the City you begin to harness collective effort and talent. From there it is amazing what gets done just by saying “This is too hard for me, I need your help if we are going to be successful.”

It is not easy, but if you have the courage to really treat your team like a team, they will actually act like a team. In short, let them REALLY help and then watch how willing they are to participate, share and sacrifice.

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