Nowadays, silos are used to store grain, coal, cement, wood chips, food products, sawdust, ideas, and solutions. I am sure that the intention of the inventor of silos was to store physical products only. It may not have occurred to him that so many people will infringe his copyright and create virtual silos. These silos are present across the world, throughout organizations.
When we talk about an organization, a silo is a clique formed by people who have similar interests, instincts and approach. They could be from the same department or have similar semantics or cultural alignment. People often form a group of people with similar thought processes or eating habits or job roles.
In some situations, these silos are compulsory due to compliance issues. They exist to avoid conflict of interest like in the case of banking institutions. Although, silo syndrome is a problem that organizations can’t get rid of completely.
Silo syndrome is a critical ailment. It is not a human ailment, as it sounds, but something that affects the health of organizations. Its effects are long term and can hamper the growth or existence of any business entity.
Silo syndrome is lack of free flow of cross-departmental communication. It affects the probability of finding unique solutions to unique challenges that organizations have to tackle these days.
Conversation over water coolers or coffee vending machines do take place, but more often, these conversations are nothing but irrelevant gossip.
With a completely new and unique set of challenges, organizations cannot rely on traditional methods to solve a problem. The boundaries are fading away in job profiles and responsibilities. the solutions to the unique set of problems that need a completely unique strategy to tackle. It’s all in the mindset. The effects of Silo Syndrome can spiral out. It can reduce efficiency, motivation level and may affect productivity altogether.
1. Have a Unified Vision
The firm resolution to break silos can start from the top management level. Once the top management is on the same wavelength, then only they can shift the mindset from “my department” to “our organization” mentality.
Evolution is inevitable in organizations. Such evolution often leads to the creation of many goals and objectives. It’s not uncommon to have myopic vision and focus on the short term goals over the long term goals.
The leader has to ensure that they keep everyone aware of the unified vision. Also, employees of the organization should think of ways to contribute and make an impact.
2. Share best practices of each Silo across the company
The leadership should focus on leading by example. The best practices can be shared via a newsletter or an internal blog portal. It will encourage the employees to be creative and adventurous with their approach. Thus the organization will be able to address any issue that they may have. Having a brainstorming session where all the team members are heard can will boost morale.
3. Appreciate the breakdown of Silos
Your organization can put in place a reward mechanism. Any decision which is made with team effort should be rewarded. All these rewards will help motivate the people to shift their mentality from “it’s not my work” to “it’s our work.”
4. Have an anonymous feedback mechanism and take suggestions
We are born fearless and confident in ourselves. But as we grow up we are conditioned to follow certain rules and regulations. The constant procedure of seeking validation from others makes us question our own abilities and we become more and more skeptical of ourselves. Thus, making us timid and we stop confrontation altogether to avoid conflict.
Your organization may have a feedback mechanism in place. But the element of anonymous feedback is important. This facility of keeping identity anonymous will ease the anxiety of employees. Nobody wants to fall into the bad books of a manager or coworker from the same department or another department.
With this mechanism, find the core problem. You should also make an effort to thank the anonymous helper in the company without disclosing identity. This will encourage more people to take part and contribute.
Silo has been in discussion for many years. Organizations of various sizes have been tossing this idea around without any solution so far. Irrespective of diagnosis, these silos are problems for most of the organizations in the world.
You may be wondering why so much effort? These efforts are not important enough to invest time or money. I agree with the fact that it is hard to put any metric for Silo Syndrome but the ripple effects will be felt down the line in the future.
Breaking down the silos is not an easy task for any enterprise. But one should not stop trying. The cost of having an organization suffering from Silo Syndrome can impact employees as well as the whole organization in the long term.
With the help of teamwork and a decent mindset, Silo Syndrome can be destroyed. There is nothing more powerful in any organization than having all employee rowing in the same direction.