Sep
12

Shattering Communication Silos Increases Productivity

In many businesses, it is typically frowned upon when an employee goes over the head of their immediate supervisor, or directly to another department, to get questions answered or problems solved. This easily creates animosity between the employee and their direct supervisor and is frowned upon as it is a failure to follow chain of command. This system of following a hierarchy has been in place for decades… but is there a better way?

Elon Musk says there is.

As recently reported on Inc.com, in an e-mail to his staff, Musk outlined how employees should communicate and why. Feel free to click on the link to read the whole e-mail, but here are the highlights:

  • Using the most common flow of information – through management up the chain and then back down – only serves to enhance the power of the manager, but fails to service the company.
  • Free flow of communication between any employees, without having to go through management or a chain of command, gets problems solved quickly. Musk tells his employees they are free to talk to anyone in the company without thought of any chain of command, or the need for anybody’s permission. “You should consider yourself obligated to do so until the right thing happens,” said Musk.
  • Musk also stated that, “…managers should work hard to ensure that they are not creating silos within the company that create an us vs. them mentality or impede communication in any way.”

Musk feels strongly about management impeding communication. In fact, in his employee communication, he stated, “Any manager who allows this to happen, let alone encourages it, will soon find themselves working at another company. No kidding.”

It certainly seems to make sense. The faster problems get solved and/or issues resolved, the more productive a company is.

Many dealerships operate in silos and enforce the whole chain of command-type communication system. A sales manager would probably frown upon a salesperson going directly to the GM for an issue. In many dealership, sales and parts are operated almost as independent businesses (silos) which can cause animosity and friction. For example, perhaps a salesperson encounters a problem with a customer that he or she knows can only be rectified by the GM. They cannot go directly to the GM, but first have to go to the sales manager, who then may need to discuss it with the GSM. And then it may still need to go to the GM, all while the customer is getting increasingly impatient. Or, the used car manager gets frustrated with what he considers excessive recon costs. Typically, these issues are discussed or debated with the GM at manager’s meetings, rather than being addressed immediately.

Perhaps it would help if your dealership took a lesson from Elon Musk regarding employee communication protocols. It certainly sounds like a reasonable solution that could increase productivity by empowering employees to expedite solutions, allowing them to increase their contribution to the dealership.

I’m not saying management is obsolete. Only that managers may want to consider allowing faster communication channels that solve problems. By so doing, employees can do their jobs better, customers should be happier and the result should be improved CSI and profitability.

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