Aug. 15, 2012
Have you ever met anyone in college athletics administration who has anything good to say about silos? Yet, how many of us lament how prevalent they are in our industry and how they are one of the biggest impediments to success. I don't harbor any illusions of solving this enigma in a single blog post, but I would like to share one idea we implemented this year at UCF that helped us in our journey to overcome the "silo effect."
According to Wikipedia the silo effect "is a lack of communication and common goals between departments in an organization. The silo effect gets its name from the farm storage silo; where each silo is designated for one specific grain." One of the more prevalent examples of the "silo effect" is when the marketing, ticketing, sponsorship, fundraising, and communications departments each have their own agendas and don't work together to achieve the best possible outcome for the organization as a whole.
After building our external staff at UCF we decided to host a comprehensive preseason planning meeting with our head football coach and our entire external leadership team. Our team consisted of the Assistant AD- Development, Assistant AD- Communications, Assistant AD- Fan Development and Revenue Generation, Assistant AD- Marketing and Community Relations, Assistant AD- Creative Content, and our IMG College General Manager.
We provided the coach with our comprehensive, strategic playbook for the upcoming season ahead of time to allow him to prepare in advance. Instead of working our way through a pre-determined meeting agenda, we opened the meeting by allowing the coach to ask questions, share his external priorities and address any past concerns. Once he had addressed all the topics that he wanted to cover, we filled in with any remaining items that needed his buy in or approval. We truly wanted to include the coach in as many of areas as he was interested in but also wanted to ensure he wasn't surprised with any of the initiatives we had planned for the season.
Four encouraging outcomes from the meeting:
1. Educating our head coach on the role and responsibilities of each member of the team- We had many new faces and wanted to make sure we were crystal clear on who was the go-to person in each area. While an organizational chart is a good first step, we found great value in allowing our head coach the opportunity to ask questions and fully understand who was accountable for each part of our external organization.
2. Showing off our team approach- We want our head coaches to think of our external leadership team as a coaching staff. We spent a great deal of time planning for this meeting ahead of time just like a coaching staff would prepare for a game. Each team member presented his/her game plan for the season and had to get buy in from the entire group. We also identified the items we needed to get coach's approval during our meeting. This exercise was extremely helpful in identifying whether we were being too aggressive or too conservative in the changes we wanted to make for the upcoming year. During this process we emphasized over and over again that our success will be dictated by our willingness and commitment to help one another.
3. Identifying the key external priorities and concerns of our head coach- For my position as Senior Associate AD for External Operations, having all the external areas represented in the room allowed me to see what was truly important to our coach. When everything is on the table, individuals tend to focus on what's most important to them. I was much more of a listener than a presenter in the meeting which allowed me to sit back and understand where our coach's priorities were for the upcoming year. I could then strategically allocate our team's time and resources addressing those areas as we strive to be servant-leaders to our coaches and student-athletes.
4. Creating a problem solving, collaborative environment- By the time of the meeting we were ready for anything. We had prepared together. We had anticipated potential concerns together. Most importantly we had learned how to work together and during the meeting it showed. We were able to brainstorm and problem solve during the course of the meeting without finger pointing and having to say "the person that oversees that area is not in the room."
I learned a great deal from our first meeting. There was as much value in the collaborative lead up to the meeting as there was in the actual meeting execution. I fully expect for us to continue this process in future years. Of course, one meeting doesn't rid an organization of the silo effect, but it's a start. We have made a commitment to build a department culture that promotes collaboration and I believe we are well on our way.
I'd love to hear what you do to lessen the silo effect in your athletic department? Please share your best practices with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter at @zacklassiter