Breaking Down Organisational Silos for Increased Efficiency
Organisational silos can be defined as “business divisions that operate independently and avoid sharing information.” When silos occur and workers do not collaborate effectively with other departments, companies could face destructive consequences, including a breakdown of trust, reduced efficiency, and the wearing away of a healthy workplace culture.
And while silo barriers are often considered as a problem plaguing big companies, the reality is that silos emerge in companies of all sizes. Research from MyCustomer.com found that 40% of company employees are not “adequately supported by other members of the organisation” because “different departments have (their) own agenda.”
No company is immune from falling into silo thinking and practices, and the only solution is to identify precisely where issues lie and deploy resources to tackle them. If problems are neglected, they could progress into deeper ones which could be more difficult and costly to deal with.
Organisations can begin by ensuring that all employees have a good knowledge of what other divisions do and how each function inter-relates. Without this understanding, different divisions could end up performing the same tasks independently, thus doubling the workload, or pursuing contradictory goals, creating confusion and incoherence. Both lead to wasted time and resources and can damage trust on several sides: between colleagues in different departments, and between a company and its customers. So, to improve workers´ awareness of organisational functions, managers could arrange physical or virtual meetings with other departments to keep everyone appraised of what each division is working on.
Another cause of silos is poor communication. In such cases it is important to encourage employees to develop good working relationships, as this will make them more naturally disposed to communicate, share information, and help one another. Companies can facilitate relationship-building across departments by establishing organisation-wide social/team-building activities.
Leaders also have a key role to play in setting an example for their teams by practicing and encouraging collaborative behaviours. They should make efforts to work with other leaders to strengthen communication between divisions from the top. This will allow leaders to both ensure projects are synchronised, and to model cross-functional communication practices.
Additionally, competition between departments is something companies must watch out for. This can impair information flows and resultantly reduce leaders’ capacities to make data-driven decisions. In such cases, managers must take action to align team objectives and unify divisions under the over-arching common goal. To do this, they must communicate wider objectives clearly, consistently, and frequently to employees. In addition, they should emphasise the critical importance of teamwork and collaboration in attaining success.
Organisations with a silo problem may also find that employees are more inclined to work on their own team´s tasks over projects/work needed by other departments. This could lead to more critical tasks ending up lower down on priority lists, potentially causing reduced organisational efficiency and friction between co-workers from different departments. Thus, to ensure work is prioritised by urgency and importance – and not by which department to which it is attached – companies could introduce common metrics, so that people see the objectives of other teams as their own.
In sum, since siloes can creep up again and again, companies must regularly review interactions and relations between teams and departments. This means that if problems arise, they can be identified and addressed without delay.