What Music Can Teach Us About Dismantling Organizational Silos

Posted by on August 13, 2019 at 4:01 PM

By Oliver Cenedella. Reposted from CongressFoundation.org.

Silos spell trouble, notably for advocates and policy professionals. These teams often get the short end of the stick when it comes to funding and other vital resources, making them especially reliant on other work channels for help and thus especially vulnerable to the operational inefficiencies silos create. In late June, advocates met at the Advocacy Leaders Network to discuss their experience with silos within their own organizations. 

Having spent thousands of hours at the keyboard as a musician, I've found that some lessons learned from performing music can also apply to overcoming silos.


  • On stage, I'm almost never completely alone, joined in the audience by friends and colleagues who want to support my experience. Achieving this requires teamwork and awareness of our individual limitations.
  • To advocate effectively, teams need to be attuned to the limitations of surrounding work channels. Accomplishing collective goals never happens when advocates rely on resources that simply don't exist.
  • Only through an accurate and honest understanding of limitations can effective remedies be deployed against inefficiencies.

Value and Trust

  • On stage, the only way to overcome someone who says you're inadequate is to prove them wrong. Dismantling silos requires the same skillset.
  • Successful advocacy teams negate doubts by proving their value. They devise a plan, execute their campaigns, and deliver results.
  • Trust grows from the ability to prove effectiveness. To expedite this process, excellent teams produce work that is valuable to other work channels, too.
  • Sharon McBride, head of eBay's Government Relations, accomplished this when her team created a proprietary database of Ebay's sellers who had the interest, skills, or relationships to influence decision. Her work was useful to communications, sales, and marketing channels. She created value.

Creativity and Discipline

  • Problems are plentiful in music, so whether its tricky rhythms or lightning fast notes, musicians are pros at practicing. We break down the problem, root out the cause, and slowly integrate the solution. Great advocates do the same.
  • Advocates are up against dynamic problems and issues that don't have simple standardized solutions. These problems require thoughtful analysis, creative problem-solving, and disciplined implementation.
  • As CMF's Seth Turner said, sometimes "it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission." Inventiveness and creativity are the crux of the strategy, and sometimes the riskiest solution nets the largest payoff.

While silos are troublesome and challenging, they can be overcome by remaining attuned, demonstrating value, and solving problems creatively. This proven, dynamic method provides a guide to creating real change.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are strictly those of the author and do not represent the views of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund, the Bridge Alliance, or the Bridge Alliance’s member organizations. Additionally, the Bridge Alliance Education Fund makes no representations as to the accuracy of this post’s contents.