The first step in creating a seamless customer experience is to create a seamless organization.

The traditional organization is not fit for purpose anymore. Departments, units, silos — and the culture that goes along with them — are hindering our ability to flourish in the digital network.

In a network, network. Those who network best, achieve most. In a complex world, collaborate. Simple, slow-moving, low-information worlds thrive on mystery, magic, great leaders and gods. 

We live in a complex, fast-moving, high-information world. The idea of the CEO, the president and the small, elite management hierarchy that ‘leads’ and ‘knows’ is quite simply quaint and archaic today. At what point do we realize that the ‘elites,' the ‘experts’ are as blind to the future and as unknowing of what will happen next as the rest of us?

Scientists have long been aware that complexity demands collaboration and leadership everywhere. In the last 100 years, the average number of authors per academic article has gone from one to over five. “Recent years have seen a steep increase in the number of papers with authors in excess of 50 — and a particularly notable spike in reports whose author counts exceed 1,000 and more,” Science Watch stated in 2012.

When I asked someone recently why he doesn’t collaborate more with his colleagues, particularly in other departments and divisions, his answer was this: “We don’t collaborate because we see each other as competitors.

We compete for budget, we compete for promotions, we compete for prestige and ego.”

A great many organizations are designed to be internally competitive. There is a belief that this strengthens the organization by weeding out weak players and ideas. It is also a strategy by powerful leaders in order to weaken would-be challengers.

Silos and departments are also highly efficient in an industrial age type of way. They are like production lines. Once they know what to churn out, they can churn it out in a very efficient manner. It may be the wrong thing to churn out, but a silo will churn it out quickly and efficiently.

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A recent Accenture survey found that 90 percent of US consumers feel that organizations are disjointed and dysfunctional, forcing consumers, for example, to repeat information as they are shoved from one silo to another. 

How can a customer get a seamless customer experience when marketing doesn’t collaborate with product or sales or support? How can a customer get a seamless experience when the social media team sees itself as superior to, and in competition with, the web team?

When are we going to start addressing the herd of bull elephants in the room; each one representing a powerful silo, each one often viewing the other more as a competitor than a collaborator?

A 2015 Economist Intelligence Unit study found that, “only 5 percent of executives surveyed globally were able to claim they had a seamless customer experience across channels throughout the purchase cycle.” Only 5 percent!

It’s not new technology we need, but a new organizational model. We need much flatter, collaborative, leadership-everywhere organizations. We can start down that road by setting objectives and metrics that can only be fully achieved if the silos work together. If you reward a silo for being a silo then you get a silo that wants to keep being a silo.

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