When swim lanes don’t work

Sometimes silos are good.  Although more and more I’m seeing them as barriers to real success.  There’s a lot of buzz lately around the “swim lane” concept where you focus on tasks and areas of responsibility within defined areas of expertise.  Seems great in concept because you can do your area to the best of your abilities and get that much further by not worrying about “the other stuff.”

Have you ever made spaghetti where the noodles didn’t intermingle?

I find it valuable when I go into a Barne’s & Noble and they have the books broken down by type.  It would be very frustrating to walk up to a shelf and see General Fiction mixed with Romance mixed with Sci Fi and not be able to find what you are really looking for.  That sounds like a frustrating trip.  But what they’ve really done is make it easy to search – they aren’t breaking down tasks into manageable silos, they are simply distributing it more aligned with what the customer wants to see.

Back to the spaghetti.  It would be annoying to have all components neatly organized on a plate in a separated manner.  Imagine needing to manually build each bite you are going to take with all components.  Talk about the opposite of efficient.  However, the creation of that spaghetti was each component individually and then brought together at the end.

So what’s the point?  Swim lanes are great but they need to connect at the start, middle and/or end.  At some point you have to bring it together – and that point of connection should be where ever the CUSTOMER wants it to be, not where you want it.  The market will always tell you what you should be doing; you just have to listen.


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