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Empathize to Bridge the Gaps between Silos

Last updated on June 13th, 2024 at 11:56 am

by Terrie Ellerbee/associate editor

FMI Future Connect 2011

There will be a journey through hell, Peg Neuhauser, president of PCN Associates, assured Future Connect attendees.

Neuhauser was among the top-ranked presenters from Future Connect 2009, and she was invited back. She presented “Smashing Silos—Part II.”

Silos get in the way of interdepartmental collaboration, and silos occur in any complex organization. That journey through hell comes as changes are put in place to break through the silos.

There will be a period of time when morale is low when significant changes are put into place to try to bridge the gap–the gap between “corporate” and stores, for example, or departments within a store. People begin to believe that if the change had been thought out better, life wouldn’t be so difficult. The key is to manage expectations. To change the habits of an organization so that groups can come together, the dip in morale must be addressed because it will happen.

Neuhauser had each table of Future Connect attendees discuss examples of silos in their stores or organizations. Many had to do with interdepartmental strife.

Once the problem was decided upon, attendees had to come up with 10 potential solutions. She only gave the tables three or four minutes, which she said is more time than usually is spent deciding on how to approach silo-busting.

Above all, the best way to getting to collaboration is through empathy, Neuhauser said. That means being so in tune with the other side of the equation that you can state the other person’s point of view better than they can.

Neuhauser said it is helpful to think in more detail about the other point of view than your own. Find out what solution each of the players wants. Then find out why they want that solution. What goal or need are they trying to accomplish with the solution?

One attendee with The Kroger Co. said that often there can be difficulty getting people to come help on the front end. He said that people can be more concerned about their own tasks than the bigger picture of helping customers. Those employees are held accountable for getting their tasks done, but the bigger picture is that “customers will forgive you for being out of stock, but not for waiting in line,” he said. In his store, everyone is trained on the front line. Everyone is a bagger or cashier, “so they appreciate those jobs.”

In that journey that Neuhauser discussed, while the “hell” is unavoidable when change is put in place, she said to keep in mind that “everything looks like failure in the middle.”

The more people’s expectations are different from the gap, the more difficult the process will be.

There will be dips in morale, and good leaders bring people through the dips.

About the author

Shelby Team

The Shelby Report delivers complete grocery news and supermarket insights nationwide through the distribution of five monthly regional print and digital editions. Serving the retail food trade since 1967, The Shelby Report is “Region Wise. Nationwide.”

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