Silos can arise in any organisation firm, large or small, private or public sector, and are detrimental to organisational success. They also have a direct impact on the bottom-line.
For the unfamiliar, Silos are the barriers that exist between departments within organisations. It causes people who are supposed to be on the same team to work against one another. You may know it as departmental politics, empire building or turf warfare.
Some of the outcomes of a silo-mentality include duplication of effort, poor customer focus, wastage, ineffective decision making, interpersonal conflict the list goes on and on.
Silo issues can be created by structural, organisational or interpersonal issues.
It’s worth stating that organisations need structure to operate effectively. There is a lot to be gained for grouping your areas of expertise into teams. This allows for effective planning, information sharing, mutual support and learning to take place. As these teams develop they form a unique identity, creating a shared language and a perspective on their place within the organisation.
Silos occur naturally because of the way organisations are structured.
Each part of a business reports up to a manager who has responsibility for that part of the business. But none of the parts are truly independent. Each relies on others to perform its function, and the company performs well only when each of these many parts work closely together. The sum of the parts is greater than the whole. This kind of structure is necessary because it keeps accountability and responsibility in the department. It also creates a sense of independence and pride of ownership, which is a good thing.
As often occurs in human behaviour, people who spend significant time in a single department often develop loyalty to their immediate group and distrust in the motives of others, even if they are in the same firm. For example, Production may view Finance with suspicion, a regional office treats Head Office with great distrust. Without trust, you cannot create teamwork across an organisation, and without a team mentality that moves quickly, organisations fall behind their competitors.
While a senior manager looks broadly across the organisation; a department manager tends to look up and down only within their own silos. They don’t take a keen interest in what is happening throughout the firm. They often don’t consider how their actions impact other departments. The result is they act primarily in the interest of their own silo, putting their own area before the rest of the organisation.
Senior managers should not be disheartened when faced by this challenge as there are a number of effective ways to tackle this.
When consulting to organisations, we help implement a variety of solutions to this costly problem.
> Developing group cohesiveness between managers through training
> Top-down/ bottom up strategic planning
> Setting interdependent department goals
> Improved performance management systems that encourage inclusive behaviours
> Setting up interdepartmental project teams
> Knowledge sharing across departments
> Communication training programmes that equip employees with the awareness and skills to develop effective relationships with other departments
> Shadowing/ Secondments
> Communicating the organisation strategy and emphasising the interdependencies between departments
> Conducting a communication audit to analyse the inclusiveness of the organisation’s methods of informing employees
> Measurement of the organisation’s culture to identify departments that encourage the silo mentality and highlight best practices
> Improved and inclusive decision making processes
> Senior managers encouraging shared problem solving
> Improved conflict management and mediation when disagreements arise between departments
Outstand deliver Alignment as part of our Outstanding Leaders Programme.
As part of the training, we spend a lot of time getting your managers to realise they are not an island but are part of an interdependent system that can’t function without all the parts being aligned in the same direction.
We help to create a mindset change in your manager’s approach to their work. In our experience, any level of manager can have a silo-mentality because it’s part of human behaviour, but with the right training anyone of them can change this and start working in the same direction.