Do you often feel like you’re interacting with just a handful of people on your team? And, does it feel like you’re a part of an organization that isn’t working toward a common vision? If yes, your company likely has a silo problem.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to combat silos, let’s take a brief moment to understand silos.
What are silos?
Silos date back to when industrialization took off. Specialization became a popular concept to make companies more efficient and profitable. Specialization meant breaking down processes into smaller sections and training employees to become highly skilled at performing specific tasks that are limited in scope. The outcome: output per worker increases and production costs go down.
Specialization results in silos. A silo, in business terms, defines groups of employees that typically work as autonomous units within an organization. And that means people, teams, and departments no longer share information or interact with each other as a single, well-knit unit.
Silos have a devastating impact on creativity and alignment. Think about all those lost opportunities when not collaborating with the people around you — not making the most of their talents. After all, we are all helping our organization succeed. Right? So why not join forces to meet common goals? Helen Keller famously said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
So if you feel your organization is suffering from silos, it’s about time to bust them. But first, let me share a few examples of silos in the workplace.
The silo problem, with examples
Silos discourage or even prevent people from working together. One would intuitively agree that you should collaborate and share information within an organization, but the truth is that this is a challenge today.
Anthropologists say that people tend to live and socialize within silos, as they choose to stick with people who are similar to themselves. Combine that with the ever more complex business world and you end up with a lack of communication and common goals between departments in an organization.
Don’t get me wrong — silos in functional areas do have their benefits: they help us structure and manage our organizations and workplaces, and improve accountability. But according to Gillian Tett, author of The Silo Effect, the increased accountability is part of the problem — it’s limited to someone’s functionality or particular part of a process, leading to a loss of the bigger picture. People and teams can become competitive and restrictive about their data, wasting resources and miscalculating risks.
Imagine a Marketing and a Sales team operating in complete silos — Marketing would be focused on acquiring as many leads as possible, without worrying whether those leads actually convert into customers. However, for Marketing to bring in the right leads, Sales has to share their data with them. Now, this is a silo that most organizations with a mature Sales team have been able to tackle, yet many other silos remain hidden.
An example of such is: a Product team releases a grand new feature without communicating with any other team. And barely any customers end up using it. What went wrong here?
Was this a feature that customers actually needed or wanted? No. They didn’t know that since they never communicated with customer-facing teams like Customer Success or Sales. Was there a chance that more users would have used it? Sure. But that didn’t happen since they didn’t communicate the new feature launch to the existing customers or prospects. Had Product kept Marketing in the loop, leads and customers would have been up to date with all new releases.
You see? Siloed behavior and the lack of communication can be detrimental to an organization’s success. So let’s get to breaking those silos right away!
How goals help break silos
Most organizations implement goals (such as OKRs and KPIs) to create alignment and introduce transparency. Leadership often focuses primarily on traditional vertical alignment — they want that their team goals align with company goals, which then further align with the company’s strategy. But in fact, working with goals is more than just about vertical alignment — it’s top-down, bottom-up, and horizontal. Creating vertical alignment is the initial step to encouraging collaboration. But horizontal alignment is where silos are broken.
Start with making sure everyone knows your company’s strategy and that it’s easily accessible. If your people don’t know your company’s strategy, they won’t know your company’s direction, or how they can contribute (via goals), let alone be able to identify inter-team dependencies. Once you have the bigger picture, the next step is having visibility into what your teams’ priorities are and what they’re working on.
This kind of insight across an organization stimulates communication and makes everyone more aware of all the work being done in the organization, reducing double and wasted efforts. Team members will have the opportunity to identify where their efforts can best be used, inciting cross-functional collaboration, and plenty of discussion around new topics. You’ll find that this unleashes not only renewed energy but also an ocean of new ideas and creativity.
Now that you know the roots of silos and how to combat them in theory, are you curious to learn how to put that into practice? A tool like Perdoo can help. Let me show you how.
Breaking down silos with Perdoo
By now you know, transparency is key to breaking down silos within an organization. Perdoo takes strategy as the starting point, and its unique Roadmap visually connects strategy to the goals — both OKRs and KPIs — that’ll deliver it.
Roadmap offers such transparency and unlocks the ability to cross-functionally identify opportunities for collaboration, by aligning goals and visualizing how each team is working towards delivering the organization’s strategy.
Once opportunities to collaborate have been identified, you can set up shared goals (OKRs and/or KPIs) with more than one group. For the sake of accountability, one person will lead the goal, however, you can add all the people working on the goal as contributors.
The shared goal will appear on all owners’ pages (groups) and will factor into their statistics as well. As a contributor, the goals you’re working on (eg. Initiatives) will appear on your profile page, and in your Check-ins to make sure it remains top of mind and that you’re sharing timely updates with everyone.
Ready to break silos within your organization? Sign up for your free Perdoo account today.