Overcoming departmental silos is one of the major challenges faced by both medium and large size businesses. The silo mentality has long been a topic of board meetings over the last three decades but unfortunately, the issue has not been fully resolved. We’ve all heard the expression “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing”. Within some banks, the department that handles general banking doesn’t talk to the departments that handle insurance, loans or credit cards. In fact, you can update your address with your ‘bank’ and unless you cover all departments, it just doesn’t transfer across. The existence of silos in organizations negatively affects the overall operation and performance of companies. It hinders production, corporate growth, and efficiency of employees which may lead to corporate culture demise. Not to mention the frustration of the organisation’s customers. This is just one aspect of silo mentality – more the structural side.
There is also the less tangible silo mentality which occurs when an employee or groups of employees withhold information and knowledge from other teams or individuals in the same company. According to an article published in the website investopedia.com, silo mentality often starts from the corporate management and pass down into individual employees. It is often a result of a mismanaged and conflicted team. At times the ‘competition’ between teams becomes so strong, departments often see other departments as the competition, or worse, the enemy.
Business leaders need to address issues of insufficient harmonious relationship between employees of the same or different departments and departmental inefficiencies. The existence of selfishness and turf wars between departments should not also be overlooked since it may create barriers and resentment between teams which will harm the business as a whole in the long run.
Most employees who choose to keep their knowledge for themselves are often those who are dissatisfied with how their departments or the organisation is being managed as a whole. It may also be that they feel threatened. If they help someone else, will that give that person a lift up, and consequently push them down? That is why leadership teams need to dig deeper on the root causes of the silo mentality to create an effective solution against it.
We provide a list of possible solutions on how to effectively overcome the existence of silo mentality or mindset in organisations.
1. Create a sense of unity
Business executives and leadership teams must share a common vision for the company. They need to establish a common ground for the company’s missions and objectives before providing individual departments with sound decisions. Through this, both behavioural and contextual issues in departments will be overcome.
A unified vision will also cultivate trust and good departmental relationships for all of them are striving to reach a common goal. Aside from that, a sense of unity will also create a more open communication between every department and individual. Information and knowledge will be flowing freely which will make the organisation function effectively as a whole. Leadership starts at the top; leaders first need to lead by example and encourage their team to follow their examples.
2. Encourage departmental collaboration to achieve the common goal
After successfully creating a unified focus, leadership teams need to cultivate a sense of community in the organisation so departments will be encouraged to collaborate and achieve the common goal together. When departments work alongside each other, organisations will be more productive and efficient.
Moreover, the corporate workflow will be enhanced since all the teams have up-to-date information and a common understanding on how a certain project will be made.
Incorporating systems, technology and processes which are unified will also improve the overall efficiencies across multiple departments. When a customer changes their address, why force the customer to repeat the change of address request multiple times and as importantly, why have staff performing duplication of tasks?
3. Motivate employees through awards and incentives
Leadership teams must acknowledge the importance of employee motivation in achieving harmony within organisations. Motivate employees through giving of awards for their efforts and hard work, and giving incentives based on their performance.
By giving off incentives, employees will strive more to excel in their fields. Executives need to properly acknowledge them to make them feel valued. Once they feel valued, they will be committed to performing their best which will have a positive impact on the organisation. With proper handling, employees will be more productive, efficient and committed on their jobs.
4. Invest in team-building activities
Team building activities play an important role in cultivating good relationships between departments. This will help loosen up and make them feel more comfortable with one another. During these events, they can make small talks and get to know each other well.
Team building will also educate them on the importance of teamwork in achieving success not just in business but also in other aspects. When they learn to get along well, they will also learn to trust each other. This will boost employee morale and break down the barriers built by the existence of the silo mindset.
I should point out also that it’s important to be clear about the unified corporate ethos at the time of recruitment. Being clear from day one that there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’ will be easier than having to undo old bad habits.
5. Set a time frame
The implementation of a time frame will guide employees on how much time will be spent on the completion of a task or a project. Based on the article “The Silo Mentality: How to Break Down the Barriers” by Brent Gleeson, conducting regular meetings will help organisations in making employees accountable for their assigned tasks.
Having regular and structured meetings are perfect for sharing ideas for the creation of a project as well as in deciding a time frame for its completion. These days also there is a swag of project management programs, apps and software to assist in managing a project. Establishing a time frame is an effective strategy for achieving the common goal. Through this, employees will learn to collaborate and help each other to complete the assigned tasks within the allotted time.
In conclusion …
Silo mentality will harm organisations in the long run. The absence of cross-departmental communication will negatively affect corporate efficiency since teams will have a different understanding of the goal set by the management team.
The existence of the silo mindset also has a negative impact on how organisations interact with vendors and suppliers. This mentality can lead to miscommunication in terms of the delivery of availed products or any services and may affect the organisation’s professional relationship with them.
Eliminating silo mentality is crucial in achieving long-term survival of businesses. It may not be easy but the result could be really rewarding. There is no better organisation than the one with employees who are united by a common goal. This, in turn, improves productivity, often improves customer satisfaction and staff retention. All these factors go to improving the bottom line of the business – making it a win-win-win scenario for owners, employees and customers.
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