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Hammers & Silos

Let me start off by painting a pair of vignettes paradoxically in juxtaposition: In one, I’m standing behind an interior wall with a sledgehammer raised above my head ready to cause the barrier that’s been around for as long as anyone can remember to come crashing down all around us; in the other, I’m kneeling behind another interior wall, building it up slowly brick by brick. In both, I’m gleeful. This is my life right now.

I’m in this weird position because I’ve been taking steps inward in my personal life while spearheading a project that I call “digital desiloing” at work. Our Service Desk is comprised of two main teams who together do the work of many unified teams at other service desks. The silos inhabited by these teams have been around so long that I’m not sure anyone remembers why they got built up in the first place.

What I know for sure is that everyone who I collaborate with to manage the work accomplished by those teams is ready to desilo. As the recently transplanted outsider from an already desiloed environment, I’ve been leading the charge. What helps is that our collective leadership of our department is ready to desilo. Recent restructuring has facilitated automatic desiloing across our teams. Arbitrary barriers that have been built up over the years and stratified our workforce are coming down everywhere we look. I’m pleased that everyone around me appears as pleased as I am. As the walls come tumbling down and a clear view of the sky above is exposed, I’m delighted at what I see just over the horizon.I’m not only optimistic, but I’m thoroughly convinced that this is what our innovative yet resource-scarce environment needs the most right now.

As all of that’s been happening, I’ve been ironically going the other direction in my personal life. Around the national holiday I’m not sure anyone I know celebrated this year, I found myself in the midst of a trolling episode that quickly escalated from bad to worse overnight. The whole thing was prompted by my own attempt to venture outside my safe stance of neutrality that had become my default presence the online sphere after incidents like what happened to me started  to happen all the time like they now do. Formerly pretty political online, I rarely even posted someone’s political post as an effort to keep myself and my identity safe. The one time I barely waded my toe in to test the water, my defense mechanisms were quickly proven necessary.

Since I manage a Service Desk and have the role of a mentor to the employees that work with me, it’s important I do what I can to set a good example both in terms of self-care and professionalism in and outside the workplace. While I don’t think anyone I supervise followed me online, my immediate concern was ensuring that I didn’t let things get out of hand. I immediately flipped the switch on all of my main social media accounts after those on two different platforms were compromised from people (or bots, who knows these days?) who followed me from one to the other. As soon as I did that, it was like this switchboard that had been flashing all kinds of lights and keeping me distractedly entertained were silenced for the first time and I could finally hear the music of my natural environment.

In short, I quickly discovered that I had missed the silence and freedom of not being online more than my online presence which was no more. In short, the mindful presence I now have made the whole thing worth it. In the professional sphere, the walls we build between teams may seem just as worth it as the self-imposed silo in my personal life was for me. I mean, after all, silos enable us to really focus through deep work on what we do best. Most of us are familiar with the often necessary self-imposed silos created when we don headphones and tune out the world around us. Silos allow teams to collaboratively focus on what they collectively do best while tuning out the world around them. The reality is, however, we just don’t live in a world where that’s possible or advisable any longer.

Teams that don’t collaborate with other teams are often less likely to implement enterprise standards that benefit the greater audience of the greater environment. Security and productivity in today’s fast-paced world of on-demand technology services requires an adaptable and collaborative body of professionals moving in unison with a common goal and structure than it does teams to focus internally on what they do best. There is and always will be a time for deep work, but the times we collaborate intra-team and inter-team-wise is when we’re really at our best. That’s why I’m excited about the ways I’m freeing up my mental capacity by doing spring cleaning in my personal life so I can focus on really doing all I can to facilitate productive collaboration across teams so we as an organization can collectively become the best we’ve ever been.