All organizations are divided into departments like HR, marketing, sales, finance that operate in silos. Each department then functions with the cumulative expertise of every employee to achieve organisation’s targets. It makes everyone accountable and people develop a sense of pride in the work they do. The same silos however can cause conflicts and though necessary must be smashed to the ground when the need arises.
So, what makes silos a menace? The answer is simple. People tend to develop a tower vision: “I do my work, you do yours”. As it turns out, it is both good and bad. Good because team members can focus singularly on what they ought to do in their capacity in their department; bad because they become territorial. They don’t share the same vision and don’t bother about how their action and inaction can impact others. It results in a sheer waste of talent and resources, both of which can cost to the organisation. As a matter of fact each one of us has experienced frustration because our priorities and expectations never quite matched with another department.
From an organisation’s perspective silos upsets communication between teams, disrupts information flow and impairs decision-making. Thus, it is the duty of the management and executive members to encourage employees to break-free from this silo mindset and build and collaborate in cross-functional teams. Why? Because most often this mentality trickles down from the top of the hierarchy.
Let’s now take a look at how we can get silo mentality off our back and eliminate all the problems it causes.
Ever seen a boat race? All of them row together and in one direction if they want to win, right? The same applies to an organisation. To meet targets each employee regardless of the department they are a part of must be driven to work together rather than be devoured by the pride of individual talent or knowledge. For this to come true leaders of various departments must work together to create ONE vision.
The long-term and short-term goals and objectives must be thoroughly discussed and debated before it’s passed on to the teams. Essentially the trust between leaders and executive committee will trickle down and ‘my department/my silo’ mentality will turn to dust.
Form cross-functional teams
Get people off their comfort zones or silos and make them work with people from other department on a same project. Working together will result in improved efficiency because each member will bring his/her expertise and perspective. However, before forming such a team make sure they are clear about what role they are to play and who is accountable for what. There should be no room for confusion. Project leader(s) must clearly state their priorities and expectations so that team members can align their expertise with targets set for them.
If there are cross-functional teams then it is equally important that the ownership is of at least two leaders who can drive people to deliver. They must work in collaboration and at the same time ensure the teams are collaborating too. For instance, if you are a software firm then having leaders from the R&D team and Operations will work because one is going to
It is impossible to point one’s finger as to when an employee starts developing a tower vision. Just so that people are immune to it, it is important that there are get-togethers, offsites or celebrations (festivals or achievements) so that people get to lower their guard and interact with colleagues from other departments. This does help in knowing each other better professionally and become sensitized towards the work people in other departments do. Eventually, in conflict situations they are better equipped to ask questions which they otherwise wouldn’t.
If you see breaking down silos mentality isn’t as difficult as it seems in our head, but it does require conscious and continuous efforts. After all, in the end, all that matters is everyone rowing together, towards a common goal, unhindered by tower vision.