Chances are if you have driven through a rural area in an agricultural part of our country, you have spotted the landscape dotted with silos at different points in your journey. These cylindrical storage containers have great value in their setting, yet they have come to stand for something very different in business as well as educational settings.
Have you considered “taking a trip” through your organization to try to spot silos? They can happen in the board room, leadership team meetings, department meetings, division meetings, subject area meetings, and campus meetings. Truthfully, most of our educational organizational structures accommodate and even perpetuate silos quite easily. Silos take place when any individual or area does not fully embrace and/or align with the whole of mission, vision, and values. Even great ideas, innovation, and creativity may actually become “contained” in a silo versus surfaced and shared for the enhancement of the mission and vision of the school.
From Silos to Synergy
The more complex our Christian schools become and intense the educational competitive landscape, the more difficult to tear down silos and create synergy. This word is a wonderful combination of the power of “syncing” and “energy.” The ability to synchronize your faculty, staff, and parents around mission, vision, and values creates the energy, which ultimately produces the synergy.
Synergy is not the sole responsibility of the board, head, or key leaders. However, this group of leaders sets the example for alignment, clarity, and communication. These three elements are cited as essentials for organizational effectiveness in The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni (2012): “The world is full of organizations where employees feel uninformed and in the dark even though they have access to more glossy newsletters, interactive websites, and overly produced employee meetings than they need or want.” Synergy reaches deep within our Christian schools while silos produce boundaries and limitations.
Trends Driving Organizational Strategy
One of the key trends identified in The Best Christian Workplace: 7 Trends for 2019 speaks about synergy as a sustainable strategy: Trend #5: Sustainable strategy is growing in its importance in the Christian workplace. Sustainable strategy, “an organization’s deliberate, effective approach to serve its constituents,” is one of the eight BCWI drivers that impact the health of Christian-led workplaces. Look for the importance of strategy to climb in 2019, because it involves plans to achieve the organization’s vision and provide a solution to meet the need the organization has set out to remedy. Upside: The greater the level of employee involvement in the creation of strategy the more closely employees will be aligned to and engaged in the organization’s overall direction. Thus, the strategy is apt to be more sustainable.
A second key trend elevates the need for hiring to fit culture: Trend #3: Expect organizations to hire for culture (attitudes and behaviors) rather than qualifications. It’s all about how you attract, hire, and retain people who fit your organization. Attracting the right people through self-selection is one of the best ways to start attracting the right talent while deterring those who might not be the best fit. It’s all about getting the kind of person who gets what your organization is all about and then investing in his or her overall well-being on the job.
Students—and Educators—Who Are Future-Ready
Sustainable strategy involving alignment and engagement for our faculty and staff preparation will be required as they equip our students for “The Expertise Economy.” In a recent article by this title, Kelly Palmer and David Blake, two top officials at Degreed, provide clear insights about the type of employee that will be necessary to navigate this type of work environment (applicable to business and education). The world of work is going through a fundamental transition. In the age of digitization, automation, and acceleration, companies have a new imperative: to build workplaces in which employees are encouraged and given the opportunity to learn new skills as a regular part of their work lives. Workers of the future must be quick to evolve, constantly developing new skills.
This article goes on to further discuss the shift to what is described as the “Expert Revolution”: “There have been previous major shifts in the world of work, such as the Industrial Revolution. Over the past couple of decades, there’s been a technological revolution. Now, we’re looking at an Expert Revolution, in which workplace skills are the most important currency. That’s why we call it the Expertise Economy —expertise is any organization’s most crucial asset. With digital disruption constantly changing how business is done and offering new possibilities for how business can be done, we need a workforce full of agile learners who are passionate about developing new skills all the time.”
Putting It All Together
Silos are wonderful as secure, stable, and separate structures in their agricultural usage. However, in our Christian educational settings they become impediments to our need for flexibility, adaptability, and engagement to produce synergy (a.k.a. syncing and energy) in every conversation, decision, and action around our mission, vision, and values. While these practical principles are of extreme importance, the ultimate synergy for Christian leaders is found in the powerful combination of prayer, biblical truth, and unity of the Spirit.
In one of the great books on leadership written by Carson Pue (2015), he describes a ministry office (applicable also to a Christian school) that evidences synergy in this way: “When you walk into a ministry office, you should be able to sense if it is a smooth-functioning, people-sensitive, and productive place. Such a place is marked by healthy activity. There is a fluidity to how the staff interacts. You don’t sense friction, and nothing gets log jammed for very long. In addition, the people who work in a healthy ministry have a high level of appreciation and excitement.”
Would a “trip” through your classrooms, athletic fields, fine arts facilities, and technology labs reveal this type of synergy, or is the landscape filled with silos which are preventing your Christian school from fulfilling all that God desires to accomplish through your mission, vision, and values?
Lencioni, P. 2012. The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Pue, C. 2015. Mentoring Leaders. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
About the Author
Bryan Miller served as head of school of an ACSI Exemplary accredited school, Evangelical Christian School in Memphis, Tennessee, for 14 years. Currently serving on the board of the ACSI Education Foundation following several years of service to ACSI in the area of leadership development, Bryan also serves Christian schools through a consulting practice, Bowdon Miller Shepherding Group, which has been engaged by 27 Christian schools in 11 states in the past four years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.