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Silo Busting: Making the Most of Corporate Social Responsibility

A customer-centered culture creates solutions that cater to their needs. A company that employs this approach must study and understand its market. It frames its ideas, products, and solutions in a manner that makes sense for consumers. The culture, values, metrics, and power structures of a customer-centered organization reward behavior that generates solutions for customer needs (Gulati). A person is more likely to make a purchase when they understand how it will improve their life. Consequently, a consumer-centric culture leads to an increase in sales for a business.

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Although organizational restructuring could yield many benefits for a company, it also has certain disadvantages. First, it is an expensive process because it necessitates a change in a business’ normal operations. A company will have to dedicate time and resources to make this shift. Additionally, it requires employees to develop new skills such as multi-domain and boundary-spanning skills (Gulati). Employees may be hesitant to learn new generalist skills that are outside their career path. They may also be unwilling to cooperate with members of different silos. Organizational restructuring is disadvantageous because it is costly, time-consuming, and difficult to implement.

Cisco created a culture of cooperation in three main ways. First, the company established a central marketing arrangement that incorporated its three sales groups. Although the sales groups were established around customer segments, the marketing organization was an overlap between technology and sales. Second, Cisco fostered collaboration by creating a cross-silo team that encompassed solutions and engineering. This team worked to create technologies that would solve end-user problems. Finally, Cisco created a culture of teamwork through cross-functional leadership teams that oversaw processes across functional boundaries (Gulati). In summary, the company fostered cooperation by uniting members of different silos to work together towards a common goal.

Philanthropy as a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy is ineffective because it often results in one-sided benefits for either society or a company. Additionally, it may generate publicity for a business but in the process bring it a negative reputation when the public realizes that the company uses this strategy as a marketing tool. In contrast, smart-partnering yields multiple long-term benefits to both society and the business (Keys et al.). Smart-partnering is a better strategy because its goal is not to enhance company reputation. Rather, it improves the way a business operates by resolving strategic issues.

Project Shakti links and benefits Unilever as well as India’s rural population. The initiative benefits society by creating employment for rural Indian women, thereby improving their living standards. By training them and lending them capital, Unilever empowers them to become financially independent entrepreneurs (Keys et al.). Moreover, Unilever benefits by an increase in sales because the women sell their products to the villages. Additionally, the program creates brand royalty because Cisco serves markets that were previously unreachable. Therefore, Project Shakti is a long-term initiative that results in a two-way benefit for the involved parties.

Building a business case for CSR projects requires clearly defined potential benefits for both society and the business. The business should begin by outlining the time frame for the project. This entails setting short-term and long-term objectives of the partnering. Next, the business should define the type of benefits expected from the initiative. Examples of benefits include tangible benefits, such as increased revenue, and intangible ones, such as improved employee morale (Keys et al.). Finally, the business should clarify the benefits split between itself and society. It is important to define the gains realizable from smart partnering so that the initiative does not morph into a philanthropy or propaganda strategy.

Works Cited

Gulati, Ranjay. “How to Execute Silo on the Promise of Customer Focus.” Harvard Business Review, 2007, Web.

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Keys, Tracey, Thomas W. Malnight, and Kees Van Der Graaf. “Making the Most of Corporate Social Responsibility.” McKinsey Quarterly, 2009, Web.

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