One of the more common issues raised by our clients at the start of their change journey is that a 'silo mentality' creates real barriers to getting things done as an organisation. So a key part of our role is to help clients build the ‘right’ culture that allows those silos to start dissolving, so the wealth of knowledge, ideas, experience and insight held in the organisation can be released for everyone's benefit.
Anyone that's ever worked in a large organisation (or even medium sized for that matter) knows what the impact of internal silos can be. Silos are those seemingly impenetrable but invisible barriers between functional areas and teams that prevent people working together to get the best result for the organisation and the customer.
I think the ex CEO of HP, Lewis Platt, summed the cost of silos up really well when he said
“If HP knew what HP knows, it would be three times more profitable"
Clearly he could see immense value in breaking them down and actively encouraging people to share what they know with others.
Silos really only exist because the culture of an organisation allows them to exist. These tend to be cultures where:
If silos are an issue in your organisation, here are a few articles I’ve found useful reading.
Have a read of Why Cross-Pollinating Your Work, Works and think about how you, or your team members, might benefit from spending time in other areas of the business. Would it give them a better line of sight to the customer?
This article talks about the value of letting people move around and work in other areas of a business, to see what they do, build relationships and share their ideas for improvement. This approach helps people start to connect the dots and understand how what they do impacts on others, and to look for better ways of doing things. As the article says…
“Many companies, whether by design or by accident, tend to be very compartmentalized. In essence, you are given a tiny box within which to work on your project but you often won’t have a good idea of what’s going on in other areas of the company; the opportunities for cross pollination are limited unless you commit to moving positions/projects.”
This short article in Forbes magazine titled 'Breaking down silos' from the insightful John Kotter, looks at the consequences of silos and three of the things you can do to break them down. My favourite is ‘Focus on opportunity, not crisis’!
Lastly this article from Businessweek about Smashing Silos has five great tips on how to get collaboration going. My favourite is the one about Establishing Cross-Functional Mentoring - a great way for people to get a perspective on other parts of the business and what is and isn't working.
I hope these articles are useful in getting some dialogue underway in your organisation around silo-busting. Considering silos destroy trust, break down communication and foster complacency they really need to be gotten rid of.
To get a feel for the real sense of excitement and opportunity that emerges when silos are being smashed, consider these comments from our clients.
“The entire floor of IT Ops told me today that they see a huge change in how we all talk to each other and collaborate”.
“It's an attitude change, we are working together. What's really amazing is how quickly it happened. it has only been 5 months!”
“Silos are breaking down. Better working relationships are being built across areas. Enthusiasm to make changes has increased. Peoples ideas and opinions are being encouraged and heard. People feel more valued by the company.”
If you need help to start smashing down those silos then the team at ON-Brand Partners is here to help.