We’ve all been in situations where a division or functional group
within an organization points fingers at other divisions when a process
failure occurs. Or part of a team that had little idea of how their
function fits into other functions within the organization. This
article discusses an issue that affects almost every organization, and
that’s breaking down functional or departmentalized thinking and
creating streams of information that flow across multiple functional or
We’ve all been in situations where a division or
functional group within an organization points fingers at other
divisions when a process failure occurs. Or part of a team that had
little idea of how their function fits into other functions within the
organization. This article discusses an issue that affects almost every
organization, and that’s breaking down functional or departmentalized
thinking and creating streams of information that flow across multiple
functional or departmental boundaries.
Most organizations use
departments and business units in order to differentiate the various
functions and services which drive their business. For example,
personnel related matters are managed in HR departments, payroll is
handled in accounting departments and computer and systems related
incidents are resolved in IT departments, and so on. In addition most
business intelligence systems are built to support decision making in
those specific functional areas rather than being built around core
processes that span the enterprise and govern how a business operates.
For instance, marketing collects only the information it needs to put
products and services before the public eye. Sales departments pay
attention to leads, and conversions, and customer buying patterns. And
customer service tracks only those customers who call in with questions
and complaints, and how the issue was resolved.
business processes are streams of activity that flow across functional
boundaries, and not contained within a single department. As a result
business processes are often fragmented across “functional silos”. A
silo in this case is a division or management system that is not
integrated with the operations of other, related divisions or
The problem with organizations that are
trapped in this siloed mentality is employees rarely study how their
function contributes to the larger business process in which their
function supports. As a result, these organizations have limited
knowledge on their processes and often do not properly identify their
core processes. This is a major pain point in many performance
management initiatives, because most major processes require support
from multiple functional support groups. In order to break down these
silos, each functional group and individual must understand how their
primary process fits into the core function of their business.
order to successfully measure the performance and efficiency of these
major processes, we must first understand which groups are responsible
for handling these processes and what their responsibilities are.
Second, we must understand the handoffs of responsibility, that is,
when and how the process gets transferred from one group to the next.
Thirdly, we must develop requirements for each responsibility within
the process. And if we’re really serious about eliminating functional
thinking within our organizations, we must cross-train employees so
that they fully understand the entire processes, which they support.
example, when a purchase request comes in, an approval committee or
governance team must approve or reject that request within 24 hours.
Then the purchasing department must place the order within 24 hours.
Then, the warehouse must send the order within 24 hours. Once we
understand this, we can say that the purchasing order process, if
approved, will be completed within 72 hours. If the purchase is not
sent within 72 hours, we now understand where the bottleneck occurred.
Ultimately, if this happens on multiple occasions, the responsible
group will have to revisit their sub-processes.
down functional thinking depends largely on how well the performance
management team involves functional support group management and key
team members, and how well these sub-processes are identified. Breaking
down functional thinking is critical for organizational growth. The
important aspect is developing the proper communication channels
throughout the entire organization so that when dependencies and cross
functional processes are identified, points of contacts will be
established and each group will be responsible for ensuring that their
staff understand their contribution to larger, multi-functional
processes and organization goals.