Overcoming functional silos is high on the list of pain points of most organisations. Important to know is all silos lead to detrimental insularity. This causes teams to lose alignment with the wider org, which has lots of negative knock-on effects.
Silos pretty seriously impact our ability to become adaptive. This is obvious if we think about conflicting processes and systems in operation in different parts of an organisation. These will inevitably slow down any attempt at collaborative working or cooperation between departments. Even with the best tools and smartest people, if an organisation’s operating system remains rigidly hierarchical, attempting to eliminate silos is going to be slow, painful and, most likely, unsuccessful. I recommend reading my colleague Lee’s post ‘Moving from Social Technology towards an Operating System for the Organisation’. It includes some experienced insights into how to overcome this seemingly mountainous issue.
On the external side, the segmentation silos cause leads to a compromised customer experience. If different teams are not thinking about the services they offer in a holistic way, the service will inevitably be subpar. As has been repeated many times by the Post*Shift team, in order to build connected customer experiences, a company must be internally connected too. Dysfunctional companies do not lead to customer delight.
Interdepartmental collaboration is easier said than done, of course. But, success is necessary if organisations are to survive the digital purge. One approach that all organisations can take is to begin leveraging silo-smashing workplace tech. However, if you build it there is no guarantee they will come – the tools are useless if there is no incentive given to use them. This is why, along with tool implementation, we need to look at the ways of working that will support their long-term adoption. Culture being a defining factor here. We need to make sure people are comfortable with change.
The following are some basic areas to think about in terms of eliminating silos:
Creating lateral connections – This is where social tech is invaluable. ESNs bring connectivity to siloed organisations by creating new methods of communicating and help to create networks outside of functional teams.
Restoring Feedback Loops – High-performing teams require both leaders and employees to give and act on feedback. It’s good practice to have feedback visible to all team members, across functions. Creating a forum for the topic is an effective way to do this. You can also share iterations or changes that have taken place as a result of suggestions.
Building Resilience – Being resilient in today’s world means being flexible and allowing for change. However, legacy mental models are holding many organisations back. Working on creating a psychologically safe working environment where people feel supported working in new ways is an essential step in achieving this adaptability.
And some further reading…
- John Cutler asks ‘What if we rewarded cross-functional product development teams when they deliver validated outcomes for customers?’
- Some interesting stats and tips from the people at Trello on silos and cross-team collaboration
- What are the models that can enable collaboration at scale? Some interesting case studies from Basecamp and Zappos
- The downsides of cross-functional collaboration: the danger of being “emailed to death”
- NYT piece on the myth of the loner genius nerd and why we need emotional intelligence