Company departments become siloed for a number of reasons.
Some departments may feel a lack of respect from other teams and develop an “us vs. them” mentality.
Others may feel like they have to protect the value of their information or resources, so they balk at sharing them with other departments.
Still others may feel isolated, making them feel more unity with their closer colleagues, rather than the larger organization.
“Departmental silos are seen as a growing pain for most organizations of all sizes.
It is the duty of the executive leaders and management to prepare and equip their teams with the proper mind-set to break down this destructive organizational barrier,” writes leadership strategist Brent Gleeson.
Siloed companies create many problems. A few include competition between departments for internal resources, as well as for control over knowledge and skills.
In turn, information is safe-guarded, and departments don’t share willingly. At the same time, teams start battling against each other, rather than focusing their energy externally.
Devising an alternative to siloed workplaces is imperative for productivity. So, what are strategies that can break down departmental over-identification and build a collaborative mentality?
Develop a more cohesive leadership team
One of the reasons companies may become siloed is their leadership team doesn’t demonstrate healthy collaboration.
Department heads may believe their team deserves more and better resources than others do.
They may also be unwilling to recognize poor interdepartmental collaboration because of their own behavior and belief.
In turn, argues Gleeson, this attitude creates resentment in departments imitating the in-fighting modeled by their managers.
To correct this issue, leadership teams need to work more cohesively together and develop practices that actually solve problems.
“Most employees become frustrated with their department and the organization as a whole when they have identified the problems, but can’t do anything about it. It is the responsibility of the leadership team to recognize this and rise above to create effective, long-term solutions that are scalable, executable, and realistic,” said Gleeson.
Consider ways to reconstitute teams to foster stronger collaboration
Departmental silos may become so entrenched that collaboration comes to a standstill.
Leadership team’s impulse may be to develop processes to improve cooperation, but these will be ineffective if the us vs. them mentality still predominates.
The solution, then, may be to create small, transversal project groups that work together to solve company-wide problems.
Some problems these groups can work together to solve include focusing on the customer, improving responsiveness, and innovating as a collective.
By creating working groups that include members of multiple departments, the closed circles in siloed departments start to unravel.
Encourage departments to understand the value of every team’s work
When teams feel undervalued, they may entrench a siloed mentality where they feel that they’re always fighting for appreciation. Departments may not value teams outside of their areas simply because they don’t understand what they do.
Marty Groover shares an example of when management on a naval ship was called on to help engineers prepare for an examining board visit.
The engineers assigned their colleagues from other departments to work on the dirtiest parts of the ship.
After a day in the trenches, departments that worked in air-conditioned offices were better able to understand their co-workers’ difficulties.
Groover adopted this same mentality when he became a factory manager.
“I made sure that the maintenance team, the operations team, and the logistics team understood the interrelation of their work. I confronted the tendency for teams to fight against each other, protect their turf or isolate. Supporting teams knew who they were supporting, and the supported team understood the contributions of each supporting team,” he shares.
Implement processes highlighting teams’ unified mission
One of the reasons companies become siloed is that they focus on the needs and values of their departments, rather than on the company’s collective purpose.
So, organizations need to re-emphasize the idea that every department is heading in the same direction.
The leadership team needs to imbue departments with this mentality, by understanding how departments each work towards the company’s initiatives.
Later, in communicating this message to their teams, the leadership team needs to define the organization’s top priority, rather than complicating the message with multiple objectives.
Only then can employees identify a shared purpose and devise plans to individually contribute.
Breaking Down Silos Starts with Recognizing Value
Companies become siloed when teams feel that they are fighting against each other, rather than working towards a shared goal.
To modify this mentality, leadership teams need to foster healthy cooperation and work towards shared goals to which every department must contribute.
Departments must also come to understand and appreciate what their inter-departmental colleagues do.
Bottom line: teams need to adopt a shared mission and recognize how much they need their colleagues across departments to achieve it.