In small enterprises, job roles can be very blurry. Since there are few people working for the company, the boundary of each job role tends to flex in order to meet demand. Over time, and as organisations grow, it is likely that this will change and each individual’s role will become more tightly defined. How tightly defined each role becomes depends on a number of factors including structure, culture and leadership style. However, in midsize and larger companies it’s likely that there will be less flex in each role, with each individual having a clearly defined role.
Clearer role boundaries certainly have significant advantages, yet over time a hidden problem can emerge. Sometimes individuals in organisations start to ‘hoard’ information, knowledge and data that is relevant for their specific role. Perhaps they are the only person in the organisation who has access to the data that is needed to create a particular sales report. Or perhaps they are the only worker who knows how to operate a certain system or process. There are various reasons why an individual might hoard information in this way – for some it might be completely unintentional. In some cases it might be down to circumstance, with not enough staff available to support them. However, in other cases an individual might subscribe to the view that ‘knowledge is power’, and therefore continue to intentionally find ways of absorbing more and more data, information and knowledge.
When silos of this type emerge, for whatever reason, there are real organisational risks attached. However efficient and effective a particular individual within an organisation is, it is incredibly problematic when they are the only person able to execute a particular process or tap into a particular data source. This creates a key-person dependency and a potential bottleneck. If that person goes on an extended vacation, for example, the organisation may suffer as a result.