Silo working has a heavy cost to your business

Not many organisations, unless they are very small, escape the negative impacts of silo working.   Habitually as humans, we tend to like to focus on what we are doing and the results we get personally.  It often takes a cultural shift to think of our team as our responsibility as a whole.  However, those organisations which achieve this shift are more productive and have more engaged and happier people.

Impacts of silo working

Silo working can feel comfortable because the team and individuals are focusing on their team, their efforts.  However, silo working can have a devastating effect on a number of fronts.

  • Allow duplication and inefficiencies
  • Create confusing messages to employees and customers
  • Dumb down the feeling of contribution for individuals and teams
  • Lack of ownership
  • Not taking responsibility
  • Waste valuable time and resources
  • Create a blame culture, where there is a “them and us” ethos

Companies should be ever vigilant against the growth of silo working and so have to develop a culture which creates “one-team” working.  Active measures should be taken to stamp out silo working and here are 7 team strategies that can help do just that.

1. Developing organisational tactical and strategic plans

Many people cringe at the idea of setting out plans for the long term.  Organisations are much better at tactical planning for the next 12 – 18 months.   There are views that creating plans can suck out innovation and the ability to change course.  That’s just not true.  Any plan should be a living activity which can be lived, amended and adjusted as situations and scenarios unfold.  The beauty of creating short and long term plans is that is a communication document.  A document which sets out the intention and story of where the organisation is going.  It should also lay down where responsibility lies for developing and delivering on key outcomes.  This helps everyone in the organisation to understand what is going on.  It helps people to get the bigger picture and helps them understand they are working for a whole organisation, not just their team.

2. Bring out and highlight interdependencies in  projects and change activities

When developing work or project plans, always take some time to talk to others across the organisation.  This might be with obvious and not so obvious key stakeholders.  Undertake some deep discovery work to really consider how the work or project will impact on other work going on in the organisation. Find out the pinch-points between the proposed work and what is already happening.  This will help to create continuous communication channels with people and teams involved.  It will also help to iron out cross-team priorities and duplication of effort.

3. Creating a joined-up communication strategy

One of the biggest problems which prevent organisations from working effectively across teams and departments is the lack of effective communication.   Communication should not just happen.  It should be planned and deliberately thought through.  Communication methods include giving information, receiving feedback, and telling the organisational story.  The organisational story is in effect how we are delivering, or deviating from the business plan and why.  Communication channels can be digital and face to face.  Communication should be celebrating successes, outlining where new work is beginning, which in turn enables the organisation to think with one voice.

4. Hold cross team-department activities

Raising awareness of what is happening, and what is prioritised across the organisation is absolutely a must.  Whether it is induction, training or simply announcing new or progress on plans.  Activities across teams to promote understanding of the organisation as a whole should be set up with deliberate intent.  Outcomes and success criteria such activities must be set around the ability to create better cross-team working.

5. Develop a culture of internal customer service

This concept revolutionised the way I thought of how teams work together.  If you treat people in your teams, and teams across your organisation as your customer, then you approach how you work in a wholly different way.  Creating a culture of internal customer service is essential if you want to move away from silo working.   By treating your internal people and teams as customers, you create different opportunities.  These can be developing informal service level agreements.  Consulting with other teams about what they need from you.  Learning about what is important to your internal teams, and making sure you know what their priorities are.  Once you make this shift it is a game-changer, and will ultimately get rid of silo working forever.

6. Walk as well as talk collective values

Different cultures can exist within single organisations.  Much depends on leadership and where you get different leadership styles, then there is the possibility of silo working being created as a result.  Most organisations will have values or mission statements.  However, stating these things are important to the organisation as a whole is simply not enough.  Time and intention must be created to understand how people are both living the values and mission, and how they are experiencing working with them too.  This can be so easily overlooked when businesses become focused on delivery.  But by creating the right culture, making sure others are living and experiencing working as one organisation can actually improve results across many performance indicators.

7. All results are everyone’s results

Healthy competition between teams can be extremely motivating.  However, like infants running in the egg and spoon race, if someone isn’t performing well, then the collective runners and leaders must help the one at the back to get further up in the finish line.  The attitude of “it’s not my problem” can not prevail.  If one part of the organisation isn’t doing well, then no-one is doing well.  This does not mean beating anyone up for not getting results nor judging.  It is about helping everyone, even in times of need.  Owning the whole organisation results is key to helping this cultural shift be made.

Silo working can be stamped out

Everyone bemoans silo working, but it can be present in any organisation and often leaders just don’t know where to start to overcome it. However, integrating some of those steps above will certainly help.

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I help leaders develop self- mastery, helping them to become confident in their own inner guidance.

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