Silos typically form in workplaces when communication between different people, teams, or departments consistently fails. When this type of workplace culture is left unchecked, creativity, productivity, and innovation often take the hit.
In a Stanford University study on collaboration (as reported by Forbes), researchers found that participants who work in a collaborative group stayed engaged in their task 64% longer than participants who work individually.
So, it’s in a business’ best interest to take a proactive approach to breaking down silos before they become engrained within the company culture and start to impact success.
Identify where silos exist
The first step in breaking down workplace silos is to pinpoint where they exist. In many cases, simply having an open and honest discussion with your team will help identify areas for improvement. It’s also important to take note during the course of projects where mistakes, miscommunication, or conflict most commonly occur.
Although there are many ways workplace silos can manifest, some common areas include:
- Within teams where individuals tend to separate themselves from the group or one person takes on the majority of the work.
- Between teams in the same department that are working toward the same overall goals, but aren’t collaborating to ensure their projects and tasks complement and support each other.
- Between departments where the lines of communication get crossed due to factors like different work functions within the company or incompatible leadership.
- Between senior leadership and employees lower on the corporate hierarchy due to perceptions about rank or seniority.
Put it in perspective
A key component to breaking down silos is communication. In a busy work environment, it’s easy for people to get so focused on completing their own tasks that they forget to think about how their work impacts the bigger picture, which can impact the success of other teams or departments. Clear communication and consistently reinforcing a unifying vision is important to ensuring everyone understands how their part connects to the whole.
Creating regular opportunities for individual teams to discuss what they’re working on in an open environment allows for back and forth communication about how they can support each other’s goals. A monthly staff meeting, for example, is a great time to have a discussion about current projects. Alternatively, many companies invest in meeting software, cloud-based services, or a variety of other work management solutions that centralize project information and help facilitate better collaboration between teams.
Foster a change in mindset
In addition to increasing communication, fostering a change in the way teams approach projects from the very beginning will help set the stage for better collaboration. During the planning stages of every new project, encourage your teams to ask questions that help further develop a broader scope of how it will impact stakeholders throughout the company.
For example, will there be any future maintenance costs the accounting department needs to be prepared to pay? Are there opportunities for the social media team to get involved? What assets have other teams already developed that may be beneficial for this project? It may even be helpful to create a formal new project form that asks these types of questions up front to help ensure all opportunities for collaboration are considered.
Do silos exist in your workplace? How do they impact productivity and morale? What have you done to try to break them down? Let us know in the comments section below.