Are you building a silo with no doors?

Have you recently been turned down for funding?

Did you have a potential partner say, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you?

Did you recently get a research report that you felt was incomplete?

The bad news is it may have been your fault because you have built, or appear to be constructing, a silo with no doors.

As a research consultant and an evaluator I get to see behind the curtains and in the closets. It is my job to find out what works and what doesn’t and why. One thing I see way too much of, is people in organizations and agencies being their own worst enemy by withholding information.

The most common withholding that occurs is the lack of sharing with the consultant they have hired to conduct research or do an evaluation. This is not always “on purpose”, but that does not make it any less damaging. Here are some examples:

  • “I’m paying you to do the research” is said to the consultant in lieu of answering questions that will assist the consultant in putting things in perspective and context. The missing information, that may exist in the organization, but was not shared means that the time (for which the organization is paying) is spent discovering/uncovering said information. This results in at least one of the following: higher cost, less time spent on uncovering new information or an incomplete report.
  • “I don’t have time to put that information together” is a common response to a request for data. If the data is requested by a consultant doing an evaluation of your program/organization, then you have just cheated yourself and your organization out of “points” in the evaluation. An Evaluator is not your enemy. An Evaluator is the person that can make you look good to your board, boss, funder, the public, etc. But not taking the time to supply them with the requested information diminishes their ability to present the best picture. If the request is made by a research consultant refer back to the first bullet.
  • “I’m afraid someone will steal our ideas and get the funding we need” can be the attitude of directors, boards, staff or anyone at any level. That attitude can be a healthy protection of an organization, position or program, but all too often, it is an unfounded fear. Being governed by fear can result in a missed or terminated partnership. It can also result in thwarted research or poor evaluation. There are ways to test people and organizations before you share everything with them. There are also ways to safeguard your information and ensure the outcomes you need. That’s probably a topic for a separate article, but the short version is: Feed them little bits of information over a reasonable length of time and see what they do with it, then judge. Also, utilize a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that has actual measurements and consequences in it and enforce it. A MOU introduced early in the negotiation will test the potential partner’s integrity and uncover their level of seriousness and commitment. It will also move the negotiation along faster.

As the number of organizations continues to increase and the competition for funding intensifies, partnerships and excellence will become even more critical. So be sure that your silo has doors.

 

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