Lateral thinking on lateral mobility

Anthony Haynes writes: Last week (‘Silo busting‘ 5 June), we posted, from the perspective of talent acquisition and management, on the baleful phenomenon in organizations of silo-ization. This week’s post is intended as a  kind of coda to that.

In ‘Offering lateral mobility key to overcoming talent shortage‘ (Financial Post, 5 May), Brian Church argues for the need to increase the number of lateral moves by employees between departments.

The starting point is the need to ensure key posts don’t go unfilled due to the difficulty of finding external candidates with sufficient skills. He argues that, because lateral movement provides a potential solution, companies should do more to promote lateral movement.

To this end, companies should, according to Church:

1. ensure that adaptability, as the prerequisite for lateral mobility, is evaluated and rewarded in the annual review process;

2. make lateral movements enticing — in particular, by recognising them as a strong basis for subsequent promotion to executive level: employees who have worked in more than one department should have a fuller understanding of the business as a whole.

To this argument, we’d like simply to add one point, namely that lateral mobility makes silo-ization easier to avoid. Staff who have worked in more than one department are more likely to appreciate how processes inter-link and how perspectives quite naturally vary between departments.. They are better positioned to see the cracks down which the company’s profitability (or organization’s effectiveness) can disappear.

Are there any downsides to lateral mobility?

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