We’ve all been in that meeting in which a colleague shares his or her earthshattering idea for a revolutionary tool and you’re sitting there thinking to yourself: yep, we’ve already created it. If no one catches this fact, a department may re-create a tool that has already been developed. Want to avoid the wastefulness of duplication? Want to avoid these inefficiencies? It’s time to detect the silos that exist in your company and deconstruct the walls between teams to restore collaboration.
Organizational silos form when departments work in isolation, not sharing ideas, tools, documentation, data. A spirit of competition reigns, rather than one of collaboration. There are four types of silos.
Role-based silos develop from a lack of communication between the various roles within a company. For example, the management team does not communicate company objectives effectively to the marketing team. The marketing team then creates campaigns that are not aligned with these objectives. Of course, this leads to a waste of the money, time and energy put into creating marketing campaigns.
Geography-based silos are less common now than before we had the technology necessary to communicate in real time. They still exist, however, when one location keeps its developments to itself. The reasons for not collaborating may not stem from a spirit of competition; they may stem from an opinion that their work is location-specific. For instance, the marketing team in England may think that the templates they have created for their market will not translate well into the French market. So, the French marketing team creates their own templates from scratch when those created by the English team could have been recycled.
Task-based silos exist when departments do not deem it relevant to collaborate with other departments since their departmental tasks are quite different. The sales department may not find it worthwhile to share their data about lead generation with the finance department, for example. Yet, the finance department would benefit from this data to create provisional budgets.
Tool-based silos exist when teams use technology that is not compatible. For example, both human resources and the sales departments use a project management tool. Great. But the two tools are so different that they are not able to communicate with each other. HR has to manually share their progress on a project, through a meeting or email, rather than the sales team having immediate access to the status by opening the tool.
Have you detected one or several silos within your company? You’re not alone. 83% of executives state that silos exist in their companies.
As you can see from these examples, there are serious consequences to having silos within your company. Four of the worst consequences are a halted data flow, unshared resources, duplicated tasks and a competitive mindset.
- Halted data flow: When data is not shared freely throughout an organization, departments are working blind.
- Unshared resources: By failing to share resources with editing permissions, several versions of the resource exist, causing confusion as to which is the final version.
- Duplicated tasks: When one department is not aware that a tool already exists, it creates it again, duplicating tasks.
- Competitive mindset: When one department refuses to share the resources it has developed, a competitive “us versus them” mindset rules.
So, now you’re convinced that silos are detrimental to your company’s growth. Now what? What are some solutions? What strategies can you implement on an organizational level? What technology can ease collaboration?
On the organizational level, it is imperative to have cross-functional teams on which representatives from various departments meet regularly to share their objectives, challenges, and solutions. Not only does this encourage a spirit of collaboration, it diminishes the risk of duplication. Next, cultivate a culture of transparency. Share quantitative and qualitative data between all departments, opening up the data flow.
On the technology side, implement a cloud-based system (some examples: Google Workspace, Zoho documents and Microsoft 365). Having all documents and tools in a centralized location avoids repetition and promotes collaboration. By choosing the right level of editing permissions when sharing (editor, commenter or viewer), documents can evolve with the input of various departments. Several people can even edit a document in real-time, truly collaborating. Especially make sure that there is only one company-wide project management program and that it is on the cloud. Departments will thus be able to cross-communicate the status of each project. Also, ensure that you install a data-sharing platform on the cloud. This is an accessible knowledge-base including articles and statistics related to the company and its field of operation. To promote cross-department communication, install a direct messaging platform which allows for synchronous communication in opposition to asynchronous email exchanges. Direct messages simplify the communication process and keep team members in the loop.
And perhaps the most important solution: train employees to use the technology collaboratively. It always comes back to People, People, People. For current employees, give them refreshers as to how to use technology to share resources. Make these training sessions available to them on a centralized data-sharing platform so they can always refine their use of these systems. For new employees, train them from the beginning to share resources with other departments. Provide them access to tutorials on the basics of collaborating across the company.
By implementing these solutions, you will avoid the pitfalls of silos and the silo mentality. Instead, collaboration will be the norm. Not only will company culture benefit, your business will have a competitive edge over siloed companies. So, tear down the silo walls between departments and restore a spirit of collaboration.