How Many Silos Does Your Club Have?

Teamwork pays off.  We’ve all seen examples in the sports world of one team playing well together beating a team with superior individual talent.  Legendary University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith made a name for himself by fielding balanced teams known for their teamwork as opposed to teams with individual high scoring stars.  Some wag once said, “Dean Smith was the only coach who could keep Michael Jordan to less than 20 points a game” – because of his insistence on selflessness and teamwork.

Teamwork is also important in business where complex organizations depend upon the strengths of different departments working together.  The term “silo” has come to represent individual managers and departments focused solely on their own agendas, functions, and tasks.  The image of a silo, standing tall with sheer walls separating its contents from other silos, is an apt analogy for business departments who work alone with minimal contact with adjacent departments regardless of degree of interdependence and common purpose.

Silos are quite prevalent in the club business where individual departments perform certain well-defined functions in the overall club scheme.  While some usually have good communications and working relationships, such as golf operations and golf course maintenance, less often is this the case between clubhouse functions, such as food and beverage, membership, and administration, and outside functions.  In many cases some department heads only encounter each other at the General Manager’s staff meetings.

The danger in having silos in your club is that some managers have little understanding beyond a broad conception of what other managers or their departments do.  Without a keener appreciation of all elements of the club’s operations, how can department heads work together as a team to understand and exceed members’ expectations?

This is particularly important in those club departments that provide a supporting function to other operations, such as accounting, human resources, administration, and facilities management.  Unless these department heads get out and meet frequently with their operational counterparts, they are unable to get important feedback or conceive of better ways to serve their internal customers.

So how does a General Manager go about breaking down the silos of a club?  Here are some suggestions:

1.  Hold regularly scheduled weekly meetings with all department heads.  These meetings allow each attendee to update others on what they are working on.  Obviously, this keeps everyone better informed and gives each a better understanding of what others do.

2. Use the annual club planning process as a team building exercise.  Many minds are better than one and often an outside view on problems can bring a fresh approach.  Read the article “A Discipline of Planning” for more information.

3.  Once a month have one department head lead a brainstorming session to improve their operation.  See the article “Continual Process Improvement” to see how it works.

4.  Take department heads to lunch at a nice restaurant once a quarter for socializing.  Follow the lunch with a brief presentation and Q&A session by a community or business leader.  Often these individuals can come from the club’s membership and would be happy, maybe even honored, to speak to their club’s leadership.

5.  Hold “Wow Factor” brainstorming sessions with all department heads.  Read the article “What Have You Done for Me Lately” for information about such sessions.

The Bottom Line:  The more your department heads interact with one another in formal and informal settings, the better they will understand the common challenges they face in running a high quality, member-focused club.  When this happens they will naturally begin functioning as a team committed to their common purpose regardless of individual function.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking managers throughout the country and around the world.

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