Technology and silos

Silos are a perennial problem in any large organization. There is a commercial I’m hearing a lot right now that talks about overcoming the disconnect between technical and acquisition personnel. This is only one example of a silo. In many organizations, people literally never see anyone who is a member of another function of that business. This creates a networking silo, in which they fail to gain the advantages that might be found in interactions with members of other functions. In the disparate governmental agencies on all levels, new technologies often take much too long to filter out of the organization that originated their use.

In this example, I’m going to use Scott Technologies, prior to its split into Scott Aviation and Scott Health and Safety. Scott was a pioneer in the development of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and diversified rapidly from their original line of equipment for astronauts to other uses of SCBA. Somewhere along the way, either deliberately, to curb costs, or through natural silo formation, advances trickled almost to a halt in their firefighter line. Eventually, they got back up to speed and began to upgrade the equipment again, but it seems to be independant of their aviation division. This means that they are inventing wheels twice, rather than once. Needless to say, efficiency suffers.

Please understand that this was only one example. The same issues happen with many different types of technology, and the example chosen was useful because it was historic, not current. If I had to choose a technology where the largest gains are being made while being used to benefit the smallest possible range of customers, it would be radio and intercom technology. Amazing amounts of effort are being made there as a result of the conditions of the current conflict, and they are very slow to filter out of strict military applications, despite the government mandate for radio technology improvements in most or all of DHS’s areas of concentration.

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