Breaking Down Silos in Your Organization

When a silo mentality begins growing in a business, its development can be hard to spot and difficult to remove once it has taken root. This mentality can even seem like a trivial problem when taken in isolation, and yet when managers notice the inefficiency of departments rivaling against one another, failing to communicate and consequently providing duplicate work, the end result can be disastrous – reversing years of positive efforts.

Understanding Silos in Organizations

Every organization has internal experts and specialized roles. This is where we draw organization strength – people doing specific jobs with a common goal. What we must guard against is the “Silo Mentality” that tears businesses apart from the inside out causing a mismanagement of resources, miscommunication, and inefficiency.

A common theme among articles and scholarly papers discussing the Silo Mentality, is that it almost always starts at the top. This happens when leadership either gives direct approval of, or is silent to, the behavior of a department exhibiting the trait. This will often signal to the rest of the organization that it is okay, or even necessary, to protect your group and to put its goals above those of the collective.

silos & workforce development strategies

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Breaking Down the Silo Mentality

How can silos be eradicated or, better yet, avoided altogether? According to Forbes (“The Silo Mentality: How To Break Down The Barriers”, October 2, 2013 by Brent Gleeson and Megan Rozo), there are five things a business can do:

  1. Create a Unified Vision.
  2. Work Toward Achieving a Common Goal.
  3. Motivate and Incentivize.
  4. Execute and Measure.
  5. Collaborate and Create.

The Role of a Leader

While an organization can have an identifiable corporate culture, when the composite departments behave more like a Rube Goldberg machine than a well-timed, collaborative symphony, silos can emerge. 

It’s critical for leadership to immediately step in at the first sign of silos and create an overarching goal to unify departments, increase communication, and lower the chances that corrosive organizational politics will impede efficiency.

Understandably, different departments will have different tactical ways of solving granular problems, requiring niche skills and specialization. The trick for managers is allowing all of this ingenuity to continue, while having the leadership skills to convey a department-unifying, corporate mission.