Organizational Silo Busting with Imperative


August 1, 2023

Two people sitting across a desk, high fiving

Breaking down silos is a crucial unlock to functioning as a collaborative organization—while siloed organizations generally have less innovation, less efficiency and poor decision-making. That’s why it’s crucial for organizations to evaluate where and how silos are appearing between their employees. The good news is that with intention, silos can be broken down—connecting your organization for success.

What is a Silo?

Organizational silos occur when groups of people are not sharing information, goals, tools, priorities, or processes with other groups

Silos commonly develop between functional teams, and can been exacerbated by the increase in hybrid and remote work as employee interaction outside of functional teams is reduced with less face-to-face time. A recent PwC survey found that 55% of organizations work in silos, and they are costly to companies of all sizes in terms of time, money, and disconnection from the company as whole. Silos result in the duplication of efforts, unsynced and repetitive workflows, limited innovation, and decreased morale. 

How Silos Impact Our Ability for Success

As employee interactions become more and more siloed to their functional teams, they lose touch with the ‘why’ behind their work and the organization. Silos also reinforce ways of working that tend to be rigid and simplistic. A person or team who thinks in terms of silos might struggle to see beyond established ways of doing things.

Siloed workflows are not just inefficient, they also waste employees’ emotional energy, contributing to the overall energy crisis that we’ve seen in the last several years. Employees may be doing double duty across the organization, and not even realize it due to lack of communication between teams.  PwC estimated that inefficiencies due to silos cost companies 350 hours per year – in other words, one day out of each work week is lost to silos.

“Folks weren’t talking and sharing about their successes or their learning if things weren’t working well. And so you were getting this sort of overwork and limited functioning.” – Megan Gage, Director of Global Talent Management at Intuitive

How Silos Negatively Impact Employee Experience 

Silos work in direct opposition to employees’ need for connection at work, and the longer companies allow them to build, the more disconnected employees may feel from the organization’s vision, goals, and community. Silos prevent employees from enriching and fulfilling relationship across their organization. Our research at Imperative supports this, highlighting unmet needs that employees currently feel in their workplace relationships as a result of disconnection:

  • People who help me solve problems and explore new ideas
  • People who bring different perspectives
  • People who add a sense of purpose to my work

People are craving productive relationships—beyond transactional or watercooler interactions. Providing employees with intentional, consistent ways to form relationships across functional silos not only improves employee experience, it creates the opportunity for employees to diversify thought, undo roadblocks, and create new, innovative solutions.

How to Bust Silos

Thankfully, with the right steps, silos can be broken down, connecting organizations to realize their full potential for growth, innovation, and productivity. These steps are key to busting organizational silos:

1. Intentionally Connect People

Truly eradicating silos starts by creating an intentional plan of connecting the right teams, departments, or groups of employees together. Rob Cross, organizational network analysis expert, has proven through over 20 years of research the value of creating “bridging ties” within your company, compared to the more common and naturally occurring “bonding ties.”

“Strategically leveraging these bridging relationships allows you to see the big picture, generate innovative solutions by integrating the expertise of those with unique backgrounds, bypass bureaucratic gridlock and obtain resources and support.”

2. Go Beyond Surface Level 

Slack conversations or sporadic coffee chats are examples of functional connection between employees, which can help in maintaining relationships, but aren’t enough to create the fundamental shift we’re talking about here. To bust silos that build real connection and rapport across your company, employees need conversations that inspire genuine connection to each other, their work, and the company’s purpose.

3. Create Momentum

Momentum in this context has two sides:

  1. Because organizations are in a near constant state of change, silos can also continually be created. Having an “always-on” strategy regarding silo-busting is the key way to stay effective.
  2. Intentionally connecting the right employees and creating an environment for them to truly connect are the first two elements, but to realize the tangible benefits of silo-busting (innovation, increased efficiency, to name a few) we need to create a framework that translate this potential into action. Have employees actively brainstorm or problem-solve together or set goals for innovative thinking. Whatever it is, create action and accountability out of these silo-busting connections and you’ll soon start to see amazing results.

Case Study: Intuitive’s Challenges with Silos

The Challenge

Over 12 years, Intuitive grew from 1,500 employees to over 12,000. As they grew, their functional silos grew with them. Intuitive identified 4 key challenges that silos were creating across the organization:

  • Lack of connection
  • Limited development opportunities
  • Lack of business acumen
  • Limited innovation

As Intuitive increased in size and teams became more specialized, the familiarity that employees once had from visiting with their desk-neighbor began to decrease—employees worked in different buildings, and others across the world, or on different communication platforms. Additionally, functions began to develop different communication norms, goal setting standards, and workflow processes. As silos increased, employees began to lose not only friendships across the organization, but developed disconnection from the purpose of the company. 

How Intuitive Implemented Imperative

To reduce the challenges brought on by silos, Intuitive’s Director of Global Talent Management, Megan Gage, was looking for a solution that provided development and engagement opportunities for employees that was also a low lift on the administrative side, due to tight resourcing.  

Megan identified the need for a solution that could scale with the company without requiring a greater input of time and money. With a small L&D team supporting thousands of employees, simplicity and effectiveness was key to success. Another key factor was equity—Megan needed a solution that provided help to employees in any and every function, seniority level, and geographic location. To secure stakeholder buy-in at Intuitive, Megan emphasized key strengths that Imperative provided:

  • Proof of concept 
  • Low risk testing to find something that worked 
  • Appealed to employees
  • Immediate access to data

How Imperative Busts Silos

To reduce cross-functional silos and form lasting relationships between employees, the Imperative conversation platform builds on four key steps:  

Discover Personal Strengths & Motivators

Imperative’s proprietary work assessment helps employees discover which of 27 factors drives their purpose at work. Empower employees to own their development and growth with unique insights about their  strengths and motivators.

Get Matched with a Peer

Imperative matches peers who complement each others unique motivators through a proprietary algorithm built on behavioral science. 

Bust Silos through Conversations

Create relationships founded on trust with scientifically designed conversations, that give space for mutual reflection and accountability in pursuing personal growth, impact, and powerful relationships at work. 

Set Actionable Goals

Employees are prompted to translate intention into action, with each conversation ending with employees committing to an actionable goal they’ll achieve before the next conversation

Measuring Silo Busting Success

After partnering with Imperative, Intuitive has found that participants have created connections, felt supported in their success, and have increased their business acumen. Of the conversations Intuitive employees have had:

  • 97% percent of people found them helpful or very helpful, within that, 11% described the conversations as “breakthrough.”
  • 81% percent completed an action that enhanced their impact or growth at work.
  • 90% intend to have an ongoing relationship with their conversation partner. 

Intuitive employees formed relationships across functions, the three most common bridging relationships being across business development and operations, communications and operations, and engineering and operations.

Learn more about how we can help you fast-track trust and break-down silos at your organization.

The Key to Organizational Silo-Busting: Intuitive Webinar

Emma Powers – (she/her) – Imperative: 

Well, Hello! Welcome, everyone. I’m Emma Powers, head of marketing here at imperative, and we’re so happy to have you here with us today for those of you new to us. 

Imperative is an employee engagement platform that accelerates organizational performance and transformation by activating employee impact at scale through the power of meaningful conversations. So one of the biggest challenges right now to organization performance are silos which cause collaboration and communication gaps that cost businesses more than 350 wasted hours per year, while also inhibiting innovation and growth.

So today we are so lucky to have Megan Gage here with us today she is the director of global talent, management at Intuitive, who is a global medical tech leader, and she’ll be with us to share how she created her silo busting strategy and the lessons that she learned along the way.

So if you have any questions throughout, please enter them into the Q. A. And we’ll reserve time at the end to answer them.

So I’d love to introduce the speakers that we have with us today. So first I’ll start with Megan. We’re so excited to have you with us today. It’s been such a thrill to get to work with you on this content. And personally, I’ve so enjoyed getting to know you a little bit more, so I’m excited to hear from you. 

So Megan is an industry thought Leader, and an innovation orchestrator who has developed her expertise through over 15 years in the LandD space as the director of global global talent management at intuitive. Megan is known for building strong cross functional relationships and creating culture. She is an expert in turning passion into inspiration for teams and serving as a bridge builder. She lives in rural Sierra Nevada. She’s an avid horseback writer and mother to her daughter Kerrian, who soon to be a fifth grader.

And then I’d love to introduce Travis Mears, one of my closest personal friends. So his bio is one of my favorites, and I wish I could have one of these for myself. 

So this is how his bio goes. What do you get when you cross a former dean of students, a part time, crossfit coach, a culinary connoisseur, and a disruptive thinker? Just add 2 tablespoon surprise one tablespoon with and a dash intellect. Wisk that together. And that’s Travis and his current role. Travis supports global enterprise partners as a period of senior director of accounts and customer success. Before joining Imperative, Travis served on the leadership team of North America’s largest Lgbtq Ally Chamber of Commerce, supporting enterprises across Seattle with the development of their belonging initiatives. You can sum up Travis’s career in one word: community. He’s dedicated his life to this: to freeze injustice to unleash the boldness in every community over the course of his career. He’s used his formal training and education, adult development and positive psychology to disrupt systems establish strong partnerships, and to lead organizations away from believing the phrase, ‘we’ve always done it this way’ is the right approach.

So without further ado, I would love to invite Travis and Megan to jump into our conversation today.

Travis Mears (He/Him/His) – Imperative:

Awesome, Emma. Thank you so much. I’m going to be honest. I will never get tired of you hearing you read that, my friend. You are the best, and, Megan, it is so good to have you with us this morning. Thanks again for just leaning into this conversation. 

I’m so excited for us to dive a little bit deeper into the concept of silos. And how do we really bust them across organizations. And Megan, before we start and start to engage folks who are attending today. I want to humanize the moment here and and learn a little bit about you, and have you share a little bit about sort of your career, how to get to where you are at intuitive today sort of what it would have been some of those milestones for you.

Megan Gage:

Absolutely. Well, Travis, thank you so much. And everyone. It’s great to be here and have an opportunity to share and learn altogether. Yes, I have. I’m one of those career LandD folks that doesn’t have a career that is a hundred percent within LandD. And I love any opportunity we get to talk about career growth and building to our employees. 

I am a sociologist by education. focusing on the study of people which, as an LandD professional, I am doing all the time every day. So I use it all the time. I was also originally going to go into the special education field. And I do feel like I use those skills every day. 

Also in thinking about different ways that we learn and different opportunities to create experiences and really help folks bring education forward. I started in the more of the private sector in more higher ed learning and transitioned into semiconductor, where I really was focused on kind of the base of LandD work and then moved into intuitive surgical looking for a company that was in a growth stage when I joined Intuitive 12 years ago. 

We were, just over a thousand employees still a glorified startup in the Silicon valley with some products, but really growing. It’s been so wonderful as I’ve seen the company evolve and change in 12 years. I feel like I’ve worked at 4 or 5 different companies going from that 1,500 to now over 12,000 employees globally, which has allowed us in the LandD Field to reinvent ourselves over 5 times in what learning looks like for our employees who our audience is, and and ultimately, what skills they’re looking to grow. 

So it’s been really fun and intermixed with that. I am, as Emma said, a mom and an outdoor enthusiast and a big proponent for working where you find joy, and it’s been nice to intermix at all. 

Travis Mears (He/Him/His) – Imperative: 

Yeah, absolutely, Megan. I love that. And, Megan, I knew, as we’ve gotten to know each other, that we were kindred experience here. It’s coming from the education field. you know. I feel like you can always tell a former educator when you, when you first meet them, and I just I have to say your passion for this work continues to stand up every time we have these conversations. And so I just I so appreciate you leaning into this conversation today and and also really appreciate just that you’re a human being at the end of the day. Right? 

I think sometimes we often forget. And we so have been socialized to sort of where that pro metaphoric mask in a professional setting all the time. And what you just did was just you gave some folks some permission to take that off and say, I’m actually a human being. And you have a family. You love the outdoors. You know all of those pieces that make you you. And so, no doubt you are sharing that with your team consistently. 

And so, thanks for being here super excited for our conversation today, and before we jump into the meat of it, Megan, I want to give our attendees a little bit of an opportunity to share with you, and I sort of what are they hoping to get out of today’s session. 

So folks who are attending today thanks so much for making time for coming together for this hour with Megan and me before we jump in. I’d love to hear from you all, and you can post this in the chat. Make sure you click everyone so we can see your comments. 

What are you hoping to learn from today’s session? What are you hoping to walk away with after you hear me and my conversation? So take a moment type into the chat.

We’d love to hear more. Dane, love your perspective. Wanting to learn how to break down silos, wink, wink absolutely, my friend. We will get to that. no doubt. There are a ton of engagement strategies how to break down silos. Yes, we’re going to get to all of those pieces. 

Other things that folks are are curious about today? We’ll talk very specifically about how intuitive and imperative are working together to really to break down those silos and build relationships how to think about a newly formed team that used to be siloed, but is now much broader and cross Channel good strategies to bring Silos, Texas, for breaking habits. 

Megan, I think our friends who are joining us today have some very specific as asks of us, and I think you and I have prepared well in advance to really get to get to the meat of it. So so let’s go ahead and jump in. You know, Megan, before I lean into this quote that you so elegantly shared with me a couple of weeks ago, can you share a little bit about intuitive business. Just to give some folks perspective of the type of work intuitive does?

Megan Gage:

Absolutely, so for those of you that aren’t familiar, Intuitive Surgical is a computer assisted robot technology that enables surgeons to heal beyond restraints. And as we have grown as a company, we’ve really helped evolve the health care perspective for patients in enabling more precise surgeries. Having patients be able to heal and come home faster and really take technology to a new level. And we’re really about enabling surgeons to do more and to provide more for their patients.

Our technology is entirely surgeon controlled and owned, but it allows the surgeon to have an environment that gives them the access and the dexterity of more invasive surgeries like open surgery, but doing so in a very innovative and smaller space. And we we reach in a lot of different areas. 

More recently, we’ve also expanded into supporting diagnosis of lung cancer through being able to take lung biopsies and check for cancer at a much earlier stage. And it’s really all about the heart of how we help patients get back to their normal lives. 

Travis, you know, thank you for acknowledging that we are all people and the authenticity of it. And I think that’s one thing that’s always a driver for us at intuitive. It’s not about the surgery, it’s about the person getting back to their family. And how can we innovate and push the medical field to allow that to happen faster with less complications and enable surgeons to do more.

I, of course, don’t design the product, but our team has this amazing opportunity to enable the innovation and the new ideas and the connections through creating growth opportunities through building skills. And that’s really our big focus.

Travis Mears (He/Him/His) – Imperative:

Yeah, so literally, saving lives. Megan is what your team is doing day to day, and it enabling those folks who have the expertise to really save the lives. I mean, you don’t get more of a purpose-driven organization than that, right? We’re literally saving the lives of folks in and giving them back the life that they once had. 

And so our conversation today is absolutely critical, right, to your organization being successful, which then translates into the doctors and the nurses being successful, to heal folks in a very meaningful way to get them back to those lives they used to lead.

Megan when you shared this quote with me when we can bridge the relationships outside of silos, we can find the magical connection. People don’t realize they have, Megan. What this says to me is that there is this ‘Aha!’ moment when folks are having these conversations and meeting new folks across functions, across divisions that sparks in their minds.

Talk to me about that magical connection. Why do you think it’s so magical? And it’s sort of this, this unicorn that that we aspire to to finding.

Megan Gage:

Yeah, absolutely. Well, I think a good example is actually a time where one of our pairs came back to us, and and we’re able to really highlight the pair connection with 2 employees, individual contributors in different parts of our business. One in our commercial sales org paired with someone from our engineering team, and they were paired because they had, you know, they they had the right connection from a system standpoint. But it was, it was 2 folks that would never have interacted before in kind of our formal you know, functional relationships. And what I heard from them was this amazing ‘Aha!’ moment around being centered to the purpose, like you said. 

But around our product, because ultimately what had happened was the pair was a salesperson that was selling and out in the field, talking to surgeons about one of our products and they were paired with the engineer who actually had been the key designer on the product, and the spark that came out of that partnership was again just this reconnection to the purpose, because the person in the commercial organization was able to ask questions and understand what it took to get to the product being in the market for them to sell and the engineer was able to hear the impact that it was having, because, like the salesperson, knew, all the surgeries that had been used for, and the patients and the surgeons and the benefit. 

And really what that did was re engage the 2 in their work. Very different work. But it was all centered around that, and when push came to shove it re-engaged in that purpose, motive, and what you know kind of the engagement of the team, and I think that was such a huge opportunity in connecting across functions or cross silos in a real world scenario like they really could feel the benefit of the work that both of them were doing. But it took the other person kind of seeing the book end of the relationship that makes sense.

Travis Mears (He/Him/His) – Imperative:

Yeah, no, absolutely. And what I hear in that Megan is there was this cultivation of empathy right? And you know, from the the the engineer designing the actual product to that sales person person, and that back and forth, and the discourse that happened where undoubtedly these light bulbs were going off between the 2 of them, where the engineer was able to feel the impact right.

Think about the power of the person building the product, not interfacing with the clients, but actually feeling from that salesperson the stories that that person was able to share with them, and just the re-energizing that brought that was brought to that engineer, and then vice versa. Here, having the salesperson here from the engineer about what it took to actually build that product and get down into the weeds of it right? 

And it just makes me think about the the positive, not just energy, and to your point, the re purpose, the alignment to the purpose piece, but also to the potential commercial benefit that that provided to the organization right where the engineer was super excited to get back in there and just develop right and to build these new things, but also for the salesperson to be able to share authentically about what it took to build the product with the folks that they’re selling to right. I mean, if that’s up, it’s lightning in a bottle. I don’t know what. So as we get into this Megan, and I just I love that we’re telling the story and the impact already. 

And folks, we’ll talk a little bit more specifically about how we actually create these relationships with our partnership. Let’s first talk and sort of ground in what is a silo? Right? We talk about the concept of silo busting and why it’s important. But I want to make sure that as we get into the conversation, we’re all on the same page about, what are we actually talking about? 

And so when we think about a silo being formed, it’s really around a group of people not sharing information tools, goals, priorities, processes with other groups. It’s just folks sort of hunkering down into their sort of immediate teams and not broadening their apertures out to get out there, meet new folks in service of cross-functional collaborations, happening more readily and easier, and folks having a willingness to get out of their day to day, echo chamber, and experience some level of difference. 

And so again, I’m just curious personally from you for you in in your career. Whether that’s an intuitive or in education previously, how is silos impacted you in in your work?

Megan Gage: 

Absolutely. I think they really do. And and going back to the sociologist and me, you know, we oftentimes and unintentionally create these silos because we’re so excited or proud of what what we have done or our team has done. We don’t think about the bigger picture or the biggest purpose or impact. 

What we’ve seen a lot when silos are created is you know, it’s a bit of a protection around like being, you know, proud of of what we’ve done. But in doing so it ends up limiting the ideas and the innovation for the next step. So we find that you know, diversity of thought is really important, but when you are in these silos you might be so excited about what you’ve done. But you’re not enabling what’s next, or for someone else to leverage that I’m not duplicate or overwork with something that we were absolutely seeing, you know, as as the company was growing where all of a sudden you would see similar projects in different areas of the business, because folks weren’t talking and sharing about their successes or their learning if things weren’t working well. And so you were getting this sort of overwork? and it also created a a limited function in being able to champion what was happening around the business as well, because you or your team might be celebrating your successes.

No one else really knew that it was happening. and so you know again, I think it comes from a sort of a personal place. But sometimes we get to channeled in what we see or what we’re focused on, which is limiting the opportunities for kind of that greater good, the bigger impact? 

Travis Mears (He/Him/His) – Imperative: 

Absolutely. And I appreciate the point around most oftentimes it is unintentional, right? Everyone is sort of focused on their day to day. We do live in a culture of urgency, especially in the United States, right? And so when we’re moving so quickly.

We do have to be more intentional. And oftentimes organizations are growing so rapidly, and we’re going to get into intuitive growing rapidly over your experience.

We get so into that mode that oftentimes it’s very hard to break out of our typical day today and really lean in to creating those bridging relationships across functions that we ultimately know are supportive. It just takes a lot of effort. 

And you know I’ve got to be honest with you, Megan. The advent of social media. I don’t think it’s helped us in any way, shape or form fully guilty of being, you know, on Linkedin and reaching out to folks says connections right? And then all of a sudden, they think about if they think of them as relationships. And that’s just not the case right? The click of a button is not necessarily a relationship. 

And so, you know, let’s in a little bit to just understanding the broader impact of these silos and how it is impacting our ability to really be successful. And so there was a study that was done by PwC, that ultimately sort of brings it down to the fact that silos are really obstructions when it comes to communication, productivity, and there can be this breeding of of resentment and animosity, because to your point, folks maybe doing double duty across the organization, and they don’t even realize it right. 

And I will tell you we worked with so many large enterprises that are, you know, 6,000 employees all the way up to 100,000 employees, and the amount of conversations we have with folks  around duplication of efforts, or this function doing this thing over here manually, or this function doing this thing over here in a different way. It is pretty consistent right? And so that can be really frustrating for folks. 

I want to hammer in the point here from the productivity piece is that when we think about silos and organizations. It’s a waste of 350 hours per year. So, folks, if we lean into that and break it down per week It’s 7 h a week. So just think about in a 5 day work week, right?

If Thursday just magically disappeared, right? Because we were able to really lean in and break down those relationships in a way that allowed us to communicate and have things flow a little bit more easily right? And I think that’s the piece of it is oftentimes yes, that 7 hours of productivity is potentially lost. But if we think about, where is that 7 hours being spent, and a lot of times.

And, Megan, I’m sure you could agree with this. So a lot of times it’s around the frustration and and the resentment piece right? And how folks just get annoyed, right? We’re human beings at the end of the day, and when there is something that can be seemingly simple to solve. There is a frustration from a human element. I mean, what do you think about that, Megan?

Megan Gage: 

Yeah, I definitely think so. you know, going back to sort of that overwork or or duplication where you know. Yeah, we may be frustrated and spend time on that rather than actually like driving work. That’s making an impact. You can be over working because you don’t realize that something else is involved, or even just kind of sitting and feeling stuck from an idea standpoint. 

And you know we a lot of us know this in terms of like time management around, ‘hey? If you’re feeling stuck, you should get up and go for a walk’. I think the silo example of that is, ‘hey? You’re feeling stuck. You should call someone and ask for them for an idea, or you know I love like mastermind conversations where you just grab 5 people and put a question up and sit at a table or in a zoom, and be like everybody else, talk first thing you think of for 10 min’, you know, because otherwise you just you can sort of get in that the the wasted time which waste time at work, but it also waste time emotionally and and for for you and the person to right? 

Travis Mears (He/Him/His) – Imperative: 

Yeah. And in in a moment of there was there was so many articles recently about the energy crisis, right in employees, right when we’re expelling unnecessary – if I do say so myself – energy in certain areas, right? That’s just taking from an already empty tank at the end of the day.

And, Megan remind me, intuitive. Are you a hybrid work model? At this point?

Megan Gage:

Yes, we are. We have employees, we have fully remote. We have a purposeful onsite like myself, where you go into the office for specific group meetings, and, you know, facilitating trainings, but are remote other times, and we also have team members that are on onsite on on a regular day basis, whether it’s 2 days a week or 5. Yeah.

And you know, I know when we were sort of in the throes of lockdown, the silos became even greater, and I know I believe it was 2021, Microsoft put out a study, basically saying that in in organizations, whether hybrid or not. 

Travis Mears (He/Him/His) – Imperative: 

You know, folks, relationships immediately shrunk to those of their immediate teams right, which then facilitated the style of being built even more right? 

So thinking about the just, the exacerbation of this problem, and it just becoming even more pervasive over time, especially from our moments of lockdown, and us still trying to figure out sort of this new way of working. And what needs to be true for us, knowing that we are all human beings at the end of the day, and still trying to understand how do we do work? But also, how do we build relationships in an environment that’s not in an office every single day.

Travis Mears (He/Him/His) – Imperative: 

Folks, one of the things I wanted to re-ground us in, is some of our recent research. We analyzed over a hundred 1,000 conversations on the imperative platform. And ultimately, what we found from a relationship standpoint just to sort of bring this down to a little bit more of a local level. And, Megan, you talked about this a little bit earlier on is the fact that folks are craving relationships. So we talk so much about gosh, the frustration of people not talking the bright spot in this is that folks are craving these relationships. We just have to enable them, in a really intentional way, to lean in to build these relationships, because you know, disp dispelling the myth here. 

Folks want the relationships, and they want them to be more meaningful. And specifically, we know from all of our research and imperative that folks are looking for 3 different types specifically around relationships. Megan, to your earlier point. They want to talk to people who are going to help them solve problems and explore new ideas right? And we’re going to get into why that matters so much too intuitive.

They want folks who are going to bring in a different perspective, right? They want folks who are willing to challenge their current day day to day perspective, bring in those fresh ideas, give them a boost of energy and and help them solve problems in a unique way. And then the third relationship, and also one of the most important, in my opinion is that they want folks who are going to help them at a sense of purpose to their work. 

And so, Megan, your example early on about the engineer and the salesperson having that conversation right? That is a perfect example of folks coming together to realign each other to the purpose around. Why, they do what they do.

So let’s talk specifically, Megan, about intuitive. Let’s get a little bit more specific about your organization and sort of what you’ve experienced over the past 12 years, you know. Obviously, silos are pervasive in every kind of an organization, but in a high growth organization, and something that you were very much looking for, I can just imagine the stories you have to tell me, so I just love to hear a little bit more about some of the unique challenges that you experienced. And the intuitive team has experienced over the past 12 years. With all this growth.

Megan Gage: 

Yeah, absolutely. And you know, one of the things that I love and why I’ve stayed at the same company for as long as I have is usually the number one question when I’m interviewing someone that they ask me after looking at my Linkedin. ‘Why 12 years that’s long time?’. It’s  because of the change and the growth and the opportunities. 

It’s almost like having worked at 5 different companies, except that the overarching goals have stayed the same. The culture has been something that I believe in and has been maintained. So that’s been very comfortable. And you know some of the relationships have continued. It’s super fun when I get to be on a project with someone I haven’t worked with for 8 years and it’s like the the bands back together – and usually we have a new lead singer. But like the drummer and the base guitarist, we’re like ready to go so that those have been some of the wonderful opportunities with it. 

But lots of lots of challenges, you know, when we started for when I joined in in 2021, I think the company was actually about, I’ll do my math, 15-16 years old. But again, in the, you know, 1,500 employee range and there were only a couple of buildings. Most folks were centrally located. International was just a few places with primarily sales, and and people knew each other because you literally were sitting sitting next to everyone. Opportunities there were quite agile. Decision making was pretty straightforward and in a good way or a challenging way. You had to wear a lot of hats. Each role had a lot of different responsibilities. You did tend to know a lot about the business because there were only a few people. So as you wore those hats, stuff stepped in pieces. 

And I even remember, you know that at the time, the CEO knew a lot of a lot of the employees names, and even a lot about families and connections. We’ve grown, and it’s been quite exponential. I think we were getting close, to just 4 or 5 years ago we hit about 7,000. So we’ve kind of doubled again in just the last 5 years. 

It’s given us amazing opportunities from a diversity of thought standpoint, and just a true diversity standpoint all over the world.

But opportunities like your I mean, you know, 1 million dollar pyramid, or whatever it was like, phone a friend. A lot of folks don’t have that piece now where you can be like ‘I don’t know, but I know who to call’. And so that made it a lot harder to share, because either you were a newer employee and just didn’t have relationships or some of those ‘phone a friends’ were at at a much bigger distance. You couldn’t just pop over to their desk and the building next door. On the flip side from a talent perspective, we were able to build more talented targeted workforce. So now folks can really be experts in their area of work. 

And so, you know, seeing that kind of evolution, it gives lots of opportunity, but definitely started building the silos, even finding that functions had different perspectives in different ways. They were goal setting in different ways and they were communicating together – which makes communication at scale hard. Now, at 12,000 employees, we’re almost moving more into a matrix to management environment for a lot of the functions. So now you’re starting to have your targeted work skills. But you’re supporting in a new region or a new function that you weren’t before.

Travis Mears (He/Him/His) – Imperative: 

No, absolutely. And that growth, you know, to your point, it brings a lot of opportunities forward. And there’s also some unintentional consequences as that growth starts. And I I appreciate your point around the specialization because oftentimes I think that can get us so focused and it is focused on one thing that oftentimes we forget about those other things.

And to your point about sort of losing that lifeline of phoning a friend, I think a lot of folks can really relate to that, because then they’re sort of left swimming to try and figure it out, but then it starts to get into this awkward feeling of ‘why, I don’t know. I don’t want to bother them right’.

We start to have those internal dialogues. And then it just prevents folks from stepping forward. So really appreciate that point, Megan. And and I’m gonna steal that analogy of the lifeline piece, because I think it’s so important, because, as we know from an imperative standpoint, meaningful relationships are critical to folks feeling fulfilled right at work. 

And so when we’re starting to close the aperture on the ability to to build those relationship, it starts to have some measurable impact.

Let’s talk through some of these core challenges, and I know you shared that you’ve heard a lot of these through and your engagement survey. But let’s briefly touch on each one when you were looking at these core challenges, talk about the lack of connection. 

What came up for folks? What were you hearing internally?

Megan Gage: 

Yeah, I think it goes back a little bit to what we were talking about with the kind of folks that I you know, kind of like your tribe around you. But employees were feeling like ‘My tribe is, you know, a bit you know, not very, not very expansive’, or, ‘really just the people that I know or I talk with are my immediate team’.

And in a lot of cases it’s grown. That team itself has gotten much larger. So there’s physically more people. But they’re all focused again, kind of on the same area of work. They’re  having the same conversations over and over. They’re engaging in the same ways, over and over. and from a growth opportunity for growth. Standpoint.

Employees are feeling like I don’t really know other folks. I don’t know. I’ve been calling the same people over and over. And also, you know, one thing we we also heard as we got bigger is, ‘I’m not connected to as many folks that are like me’.

We’ve really had the opportunity expand in like the employee resource group session section in giving opportunities for employees to feel connections with others who are so they find, you know, have, like a similar mindset, whether it’s veterans being able to be with veterans or our pride organization being able to say, ‘I’m not alone that there’s lots of other folks that I can have a connection with, not just on my immediate immediate team’.

Whether it’s because we have something in similar or because I feel like there’s a bigger allyship here. 

Travis Mears (He/Him/His) – Imperative:

Yeah. So the feel that sense of community is what I hear in that Megan. And folks really having that broader sense of community that’s outside of their immediate team.

The other piece that I want to touch on, and then we’ll get into really how we started to solve for some of these things is that you talked to me a lot about the lack of business acumen, and undoubtedly others on the call today can really resonate with that. 

So may I? Just curious how that show up for folks at Intuitive.

Megan Gage: 

Yeah, that’s been a huge one that we’ve been really working hard at again, when the company was smaller. Most employees had some pretty had a good understanding of kind of how our company was structured, because there weren’t that many teams and there weren’t so many functions. 

So you kind of knew like, okay, I get it. It’s pretty straightforward. They understood the kind of ‘who’s who’, ‘where we are’, ‘what locations’, ‘why, we’re there’. They understood our products because it was more simplified, you know. 

10 years ago we had a very straightforward product line, you know, fast forward to 2023 and we have digital product lines and multiple medical specialties and multiple products. And it just employees are like, ‘I don’t even know exactly what we do anymore’. Because it’s expanded so much and and also an understanding, a deeper understanding of our customers, and the clinical nature of what we do.

Again, everyone is rooted in patients first, always. That’s one of our like mission mantras. But as the company’s grown, and we’ve been in other areas, really new employees and employees being like, what does that really mean? What does our customer base look like? And so those were places where it was just more natural to understand that as an employee in the past, and as the scope of what we do is grown employees felt like, ‘I really only understand the product line that I support’, or really only understand the customers in the region where I am, and that starts to limit my ability to see the big picture.

Travis Mears (He/Him/His) – Imperative: 

Absolutely. And then, I would imagine, sort of exacerbates the challenges around limited innovation, right folks being in their their singular space right? And not being able to think about sort of the breadth of offerings, and how they may have an impact on a client relationships and and really expand that relationship with a variety of different offerings. 

But then the other challenge that you had is around limited development opportunities; folks, only thinking that they can only develop in this one area versus being able to see that, ‘Gosh! maybe marketing is where I really would like to sit and where I could really like to work’. 

So then, Megan, let’s talk about your implementation strategy around solving for some of these pieces, and the pieces I want to focus on is ‘at scale’. I think that’s a challenge for folks. I talked to many of our partners about the at scale piece and your specific focus is on connecting and engaging people. 

Why was that important to intuitive as you sort of went out the gate to solve this problem?

Megan Gage:

Yeah. So our team specifically, in global talent management, our audience is all employees globally. And so one of our design principles is, while we don’t need to reach all employees with what we’re offering on day one, we don’t want to be doing something that is going to create exclusivity unintentionally. 

And so when we’re hearing from employees, you know what you just had in terms of like, what we were trying to solve, for that was universal. That wasn’t specific to a certain function. It wasn’t specific to a certain location or employee type. We heard those from all over the world. 

And so we really wanted to come into something that we felt had the opportunity to scale globally, that while we might not do that from day one. We weren’t going to have to rework or say, yes, we have this awesome opportunity, but you guys can’t have it, because you’re in the wrong country, or because you’re in the wrong function, or we’re gonna get to the point where we just, you know, can’t. So that was really important for us. 

And the other side of scale is, we’re a small, lean team. One of intuitive perspectives is, you know, to treat our intuitive money as if it’s your own, which means that we’re very thoughtful about how we spend money, and we’re very thoughtful about headcount, even though we’ve grown as big as we have. We don’t. When we invest in talent, it’s because we plan to have that talent for a long time. And so just in our LandD team, we needed solutions that could create scale without our scaling, because I wasn’t going to be able to add a whole bunch of people to run something over and over and over. 

We needed it to and run itself. And that was really important to us as we looked at being able to have it have options more available for employees over time.

Travis Mears (He/Him/His) – Imperative: 

Yeah. And so that lead really leans into the values alignment piece. Because what I hear from you, Megan, is the importance of equity in a solution. 

So to your point, you’re not having to say, Well, it’s not for you. Sorry can’t do that right, that  doesn’t feel great to employees. And also that you were conscious of the impact in relationship to the cost. Right? I think that’s critical. 

As we know, belts have gotten a lot tighter recently, folks know that the economic news continues to not be terribly amazing these days. Right? So that’s an always important piece. 

And then the other factor that you talked about was you’ve got a lean team, and that is not uncommon from an LandD perspective, right where those teams are lean, but then they’re also charged with supporting 12,000 people. That’s a lot of folks per person, right? So absolutely important to think about as you go into it.

I just I so appreciate the intentionality and also, Megan, the simplicity of your strategy, because oftentimes I think we love to over complicate things.

I know personally, as a former educator I will over complicate everything, and then I will leave it to Emma Powers to say, Travis, you are over complicating this like, let’s tone it down right? So I think that keeps it really manageable for folks.

But then, Megan, you have to engage other stakeholders to say, yeah, we want to to lean into this partnership with imperative to solve for the silos that have been built across the organization to solve those 4 critical challenges. So you needed to gain buy-in. And I think that’s a a challenge for a lot of folks. As a in my conversations with them, we have to talk a lot about the concept of buy-in. And then how do we establish it when we’re looking at a heavily matrix and a larger organization. So me and you talked about the low lift right? Needing something that was super easy for your team to do.

Tell me about the importance of doing a proof of concept for your team.

Megan Gage: 

Yeah. So that’s been a design strategy that we have leveraged over and over and over for many years, and honestly, one of my favorites. From a personality design standpoint. I love to like, try something new, but in a fairly low risk scenario, and then be able to show like, Oh, yeah, this is good. Now let’s really think about implementation that would grow and change. And so for us, piloting or proof of concept is is sort of key.

We always go there. We’re always going to go there if we can. Because it really is a way to create champions and buy in in that, you know, kind of low risk scenario. And and in 2 ways.

First and foremost, it gives you an opportunity to iterate and evolve over time. And honestly, at least, when we talk with employees. If we if we even say ‘Hey, you’re invited to be part of this pilot’. They like jump at the opportunity to be early adopters and check it out and give feedback, and we always stay up front. We want you to tell us how you want this.

We want you to do design reviews and tell us what you like, and and tell us how we can make this better until we find that employees are quite open, even if something totally like explodes on itself. If we say we’re going through this sort of initial pilot or proof of concept. They’re super excited about it rather than nervous about it. 

The other place that it helps in stakeholder buy in is from a financial standpoint, because it again is a bit low risk compared to just waiting and trying to do something that’s like perfect from the very beginning and and this huge scale, when honestly, we’re not entirely sure how it’s going to work out. But we believe that it’s going to be awesome. So let’s go for it. and that’s a place where I’ve had a lot of financial success, too, because I tend to be able to, you know, like you can re-purpose dollars sometimes while you’re building the larger case.

So you know, for us as we were, as we are bringing you know, imperative. And these peer conversations together, we are able to do a little bit of repurposing financially around money that we would have used to, you know, design a program that wasn’t designed yet and and try things out while we were building the case for our annual budget for the next year, which would require more and that ends up working well. Because then you have good data you can show. Hey, here’s the ROI from this small investment. As we scale. You’re just going to see this scale even more, because you’ll have more engagements.

Travis Mears (He/Him/His) – Imperative: 

Yeah, no, absolutely. And I just love a try before you buy moment. Right? Because that’s the piece of it. As we think about these dynamic solutions like imperative. It is important for us to really think about. How do we support you and the team with making that case right?

And one of the key criteria for your team was the immediate access to data right that we provide. And so let’s get into it, Megan. Let’s talk about that since we’ve sort of tempted our colleagues joining us today a lot. So let’s talk a little bit about how we did our work together, and the impact that we’ve had. 

So folks when we think about breaking down silos from imperatives perspective, ultimately, what we’re talking about is intentionally kind of connecting employees from different groups across the enterprise.

Oftentimes organizations will just make the assumption that employees can connect. Megan could go and say to her team, ‘Hey, folks, I want you to go connect with sales and marketing over here’, and the fact is, it doesn’t happen. And so what we want, and our ability to support organizations with doing is creating connections across organizations in an intentional way that provides a level of scaffolding and support for employees to create what we know to equal a meaningful relationship. 

And so just to further dispel the barrier from some of our recent research in our 2022 workforce purpose index, you know, when organizations just leave relationships and silo busting to chance. It doesn’t work because one employee is, Megan to your point, they don’t know which friend to phone right? Because they don’t have insight into, you know, Sam working in marketing or John working in engineering.

They are unsure because the organization is so large, and it’s unreasonable for folks to think that, Megan, you would have relationship with all 12,000 intuitive employees. Undoubtedly you do, because you’re a very social person. But I think that’s just an unrealistic expectations that oftentimes organizations just place on the employee shoulders, and then specifically on the shoulders of the manager to focus on with their teams, and oftentimes managers don’t know who to engage with either. And then the other piece. 

Getting back to our earlier point around being human is that many folks do not feel comfortable initiating a relationship. They don’t want to ask someone for their time. They feel uncomfortable, especially Megan, to your earlier point, new employees. And so how do we do this in a way that feels safe or employees to step forward to have a level of agency in building those relationships. But while at the same time solving for all 4 of those challenges, Megan and the intuitive team have been working on. 

So, folks, let’s talk a little bit about our work with intuitive, and how we have supported them with busting those silos.

So, as Emma mentioned, imperative is a video based platform where we are pairing folks across organizations to have conversations and really believing that a meaningful conversation with the peer is really the gateway into creating a long term relationship. 

Folks step forward on imperative by first and foremost anchoring to their own personal North Star. So we have everybody complete their purpose profile. It’s a set of 27 questions that identifies their own intrinsic drivers of motivation, because we very much believe you have to know yourself before you really can know someone else that supports us with that matching process that Megan alluded to it earlier, where we take factors from each person’s purpose profile, and bring them together with the person that we believe they’re gonna have the most robust conversations with really shifting the relationship from the basis of visible different to a relationship that it relationship that’s grounded in each person’s intrinsic drivers of motivation.

We then pair them for a series of conversations that supports them with not only leaning into their professional development goals, but busting those silos through the development of those relationships.

And as you heard Megan share previously, folks engage and start talking about their areas of the business to help them understand and gain a deeper level of business acumen to support them with leaning into their roles even more, but also providing them with an opportunity to gain a different perspective from someone they may have never thought to have a conversation with previously and then at the end of every conversation. And, Megan, I know you appreciate this as an LandD person, each person participating on a period walks away with an actionable goal. 

Flolks set an imperative that they’re committing to completing before their next conversations with their peers, and that’s in support of the pairings cultivating a level of trust with each other. So they’re seeing each other as an accountability partner as well as a new relationship across the organization. And so, Megan. these are some of the results we are seeing from the team at Intuitive, I mean, we talked about the importance of immediate access to data. I mean, how have these landed with with your leaders in the team at Intuitive?

Megan Gage: 

I think we again, as a a medical device company and technology focus, the data is so important for us, because that’s how we tell this story And really, it is sort of these these big pieces. Right? We’re building ongoing relationships. I think about how we can help our employees create their own council of experts to go to for ideas, for feedback, for support, for championship. and we really are seeing that in that these partnerships that last after the scheduled time together. 

And I think that’s really important is that we haven’t just created a you know,  a quick introduction at a dinner party. And that’s it. We’ve actually created folks that want to continue to support each other over time. And that’s that’s the value is that it’s not just right now. It’s also later, which will grow with the company. 

I think the the feedback piece has been really important to us to around re-engaging in the ROI of development where employees are actually saying this was worth my time. This actually enabled need to work more strategically, or to bring on a new idea, or or do something more in my work than I already am. And then we also see increases in our employee experience surveys where we’re seeing in place, saying intuitive, actually investing in my development. 

We’re actually talking about who I am and where I go here, and what that looks like. And then, as you brought up Travis, the the action completion is really important for us, because

going back to design principles from the very beginning, our goal is that there are takeaways and actually follow through on the takeaways. 

We don’t want development opportunities to be one and done. That doesn’t help us. And from a 70/20/10 perspective in L and D, most of our time is focused on creating those 10% activities. But when we have pull through, you start going into the 20 and the 70, because it’s applying the knowledge back on the job and leveraging others for accountability support rather than our team. 

And I think that’s been one of the nice pieces around the pairs, having conversations about what’s important, and then their own accountability with it. And then the platform just helps track it. So I’m not tracking, but I’m not asking anybody to tell me if they follow through. But there is something asking them if they’re following through, and that from kind of pulling back and thinking about scale and long term impact is is a huge piece of data for us.

Travis Mears (He/Him/His) – Imperative: 

Absolutely well. And I love that you just sort of took us there, Megan, in that, you know, the platform does collect that feedback and data throughout the flow of the experience. And I think that’s one of the things that has been validated by many of our partners, and I think you all included is that when we captured data through the floor of the experience versus just a survey at the end of an experience. Right? And you and I joked yesterday about, you know we love our L and D colleagues, and oftentimes we’re asking folks, ‘well, was it too hot in the room, or did you like the sandwiches’. Right, in those sort of in moments, in time, the presentations, the learning activities right? 

But to your point, the goal here is that it’s a continuous experience, not just a one time event. And so this is just a perspective. And, Megan, I know you and the team love the dashboard that we provide break down the data from engagement to sentiment, to action, completion, to impact on the business and to really hammer the point home around Silo busting, being able to show you the connections that have been made across the organization. So that in our strategy together we can continue to target specific groups and intentionally bring folks together from functions that we know are critical to be having conversations.

And the last piece folks, this is always the favorite of of our partners is being able to show you the emotional impact, what I like to call ‘the power of an hour’, and we get check in with each person before they lean into their experience on imperative by asking them ‘how are you feeling right now’ we do this at the beginning, and then also at the end of the experience. And you can see from folks that intuitive that folks are stepping in, you know, busy, frustrated summer feeling tired. We’ve got some goods in there. Some folks who are excited, but the net of it, folks, is that the impact of giving folks the opportunity to engage with a partner across the organization for 45 min to an hour, can have a truly powerful experience in their day today, and really pull them out of that burnout zone and really bring them into that peak energy zone.

And so the last piece, Megan, you know, I think we’ve talked a lot about how our work together has really supported you all with solving for these critical challenges any final note you’d make to to the group before we open it up to questions around happy impact that our work together has had on the team.

Megan Gage: 

You know I would just say what I love is that we are hitting all of these a lot of times when we think about development opportunities and and L and D programs. We tend to have just have the ability to solve one or two, I’m just gonna educate on business acumen. But I’m not really creating any connections. I’m just gonna enable someone to have some new ideas. But like, it’s not really driving their career.

And what I really like is in one solution, one support, one conversation. Employees are getting benefits from all of these. And again, our seems like not doing that much which is awesome because it means we can spend some time creating additional support while these pairs are are really expanding and benefiting and building those relationships and expanding their ideas and careers.

Travis Mears (He/Him/His) – Imperative: 

Yeah, what I hear from that again is the word dynamic right? We have to meet our employees where they are. And the fact is that they are dynamic individuals who need support from multiple areas and just love that you sort of landed the plane there for us. So, Emma, I’m going to invite you to join us back, and I know you were going to get the hook at the metaphor, hook out and pull me off getting up to the top of the hour. But I’m curious. Do you have a couple of questions for me?

Emma Powers – (she/her) – Imperative: 

We are. Yes, we are getting close, but I do. I think we have time for one and maybe 2, so I’ll start with you, Megan. We had a question from someone right at the top that was asking about.

How do you get leadership teams to speak collectively on silo elimination? I mean, it sounds like for intuitive it was kind of nascent, like, you guys understood how to make that connection to the business problem.

But for other companies, do you have any recommendations or suggestions for how they can get leaders to be in on? This is a problem we need to solve, and we need to solve it now.

Megan Gage: 

Yeah, you know, I would say, the part of it is being able to articulate the challenges and the opportunities together being able to relate it. I’m not the greatest storyteller, but being able to give good information about it. 

I love to leverage, hold the whole brain thinking approach which really is saying, if I’m going to create, buy in, or if I’m going to get sponsorship, I need to identify like. Why, this is important. What exactly we’re looking to solve. Who is going to help us and who is already doing this? And I think that goes into the silo, busting around like we might not have to reinvent the wheel, but you might not see where the opportunities are. And then how are we going to move forward or like, what, specifically, am I asking you to do? Am I asking you to highlight that there’s a problem? Or am I asking for you to focus on where we’re headed. And I try to think about those questions upfront. So that whoever the leader is, whatever their driver, is, hopefully within all of that, they’re going to hear what they need to have buy in and see value.

Emma Powers – (she/her) – Imperative: 

That makes a lot of sense. I love that, I’m going to try to squeeze in one more thing for you, Megan. Because we did have a question from Hemerson that I wanted to get your take on. And he’s asking about the financial impact of breaking down silos. And so I know there was definitely some business goals that you guys were were looking at. 

So how do you think about like the value of breaking down silos from a business perspective?

Megan Gage: 

Yeah, I mean, you know, that’s always one of the challenges right? Because there’s all kinds of different factors that come into play. So a lot of times we have to take it from more the objective of what we’re hearing from the business. I think definitely enabling more ideas enables the functions to get to move forward and innovation faster and to be more streamlined in their work. 

We talk a lot at intuitive around reducing sand in the gears, sand being the wasted time, the wasted energy when there could be a different approach or someone’s already doing it, or it’s just not the right work to do. And I think creating these conversations and giving exposure across the function and giving opportunities for employees actually think about their relationships. Their purpose and their impact is allowing them to reduce some of that sand in the gears. 

One conversation can actually create a whole new strategy or just refresh the person. So they’re not kind of just suing over and over on wasted time or wasted, you know, getting more ideas.

Travis Mears (He/Him/His) – Imperative: 

Awesome, Megan. I love that perspective so much, and I just I can’t thank you enough for spending time with us today, talking about our work together and really engaging around a critical challenge that folks are trying to solve for, and oftentimes get really stuck and have a lot of sand in the gears when they’re thinking about solving for it.

So thanks so much, Megan, you continue to be an amazing partner. And we just love working with you and the team at intuitive and folks as we think about our next webinar coming up, I also want to challenge you to think about, how do you support your teams from a change management, perspective activating employee engagement thinking about manager enablement? 

These are all examples of use cases that we are leaning in to our partners with right now at this moment, and as Megan shared so eloquently, and that dynamic solves to the problems are absolutely necessary in this moment, and so I invite you to join me next month when I’m talking with my friend Meg Harris, the VP of people at Ancestry talking about scaling culture change that leads to action. So folks thanks so much for spending time with us today. Really appreciate it. You look forward to connecting with you soon.

Megan Gage: 

Thanks again for having me, Travis. Really.

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