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Working Across Silos: License to Fish, License to Build

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Leadership & Transparency
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Editor's Note: To learn more about Bill's thoughts on breaking through silos at your company, check out this post

By Bill Hatton

One issue in silo-breaking is: Where do you start -- top-down, or bottom-up? Can’t an organization just say, “Share this information" and work together?

Yes, says Silvia Garrigo, a lawyer who has retired as manager of global issues and policy at Chevron Corp.: “There is no doubt that if the CEO or someone on the executive management team tells their function ‘This is the law, abide by it,’ there will be action that will follow that pronouncement; however, in my experience, those kinds of hierarchical decisions and mandates really lead to transactional experiences and results as opposed to the transformational results. I’ve got to go up, down, center, and always deep.”

Garrigo was in charge of creating a human rights policy for Chevron. She says one key was the idea of a “license” to investigate where she needed to, to convene who she needed to convene, and talk to whomever she needed to talk to.

“We had executive champions who said, ‘Silvia, you and your team have an official license, you can go and convene whoever you need to decide if we are going to adopt a human rights policy. What we did – we went out to the field and spoke to seven or eight different business units, chose those which had the most difficult or sensitive operating environments within their day-to-day business, and asked, ‘What are your thoughts on the supply chain, security issues, labor issues’– sometimes mining security is providing by the host government and they have a different concept about how to use power.”

“We went and met all the different functions — procurement, HR, supply chain, functional heads of those units and leadership teams and went deep into their organizations and asked the same questions: ‘What do we already do in human rights and what do we do that touches on human rights that we can leverage on?’ Then we went back to the executive team. They said, ‘Fine, Silvia, your fishing license has now been extended to a construction license. Go back and do more work. Create a policy, an implementation plan and implementation guidance team, and create a governance plan. Who are you going to convene, who are you going to work with and co-create, and what enabling environment are you going to create, and then how are you going to govern all of that?’”

As a result, the team created its policy and its implementation plan, including:


  • What to prioritize in the field first and how

  • What clear expectations to set under the policy

  • What governance to set under that, and

  • What review and audit protocols to set, i.e., “If we have a standard, how do we know we’re doing what we say we’re doing, how do we satisfy that standard,” said Garrigo.
The bottom line: Thinking across silos involves a systematic plan for reaching out and then finding ways to create protocols to keep the communication moving across boundaries. It involves upper-management support to dig and change, but to become transformational instead of transactional, requires real understanding of others’ concerns — and then communicating that back to the various stakeholders as they prepare to create real change.

Silvia Garrigo spoke at a Nov. 5 Skytop Strategies conference on Integrated Reporting.

Image credit: Flickr/Picturepest

Bill Hatton is a veteran business-to-business writer who has written extensively on CR, EHS, compliance and management topics. He can be reached at billhatton at mountainvieweditor dot com.

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