The Great Silo Gap

At AGMC, we have never had a consulting client that did not have a problem with teams working in silos. One reason for silo mentality is that company organizations are built around silos. Organizational charts are built around areas of expertise. We have silos labeled ‘IT’, ‘Finance’, ‘HR’, ‘Sales’ and so on.

Silos were designed around areas of specialties. However, the silo mentality can get out of hand at times. There comes a point that the silo thinks that their department is the center of the universe. The silos work is the most important above all other work in the company. When Department heads stops collaborating with other Department heads then the employees reporting to them starts following suit. Employees echo the behavior of their managers. Employees starts to slow down collaborating and working with others across other functions of the company.

The silo divide never start from the staff. The silo divide begins at the Department managers level. The entire departments behavior will always reflect the behavior of the department head. As the divide grows, the quality and timeliness of information between functions starts to slow down. Eventually, the silo gap has grown so wide that information stops to voluntarily flow across. This starts to affect the company. The gap affects the product and service that is delivered. The gap affects the quality of service that is provided to the customer.

We should never tolerate silo mentality in our companies. They are counterproductive and even destructive. We do not have multiple companies with multiple company Presidents lording over the silos. We have several department heads managing functions for one company. Multiple departments designed to collectively deliver the company goals and vision.

How do we close the silo gap? We can do the following things to close it.

First, we need to give the departments and department heads a unified vision. A vision where the work of each department is equally important for the success of the company. Department heads must be united under one company vision. A vision so compelling and exciting that people are pulled together to work as one entity.

Second, the employees must be unified and motivated intentionally to work as one. We can see this when companies organize team building activities, employee engagement and wellness programs. We can see this when collaboration across functions are not only encouraged but rewarded as well. Closing the gap is not an issue only for the department head. It is an issue that affect the entire company and has to be addressed accordingly.

Third, progress must be measured and reported. Like the adage goes ‘you cannot improve what you don’t measure’. Cross functional collaboration must be transformed from an initiative into company culture. Cross functional collaboration and teamwork must be encouraged and rewarded.

Only then a company functions as one organization will it be able to achieve it’s goals. Cross functional teamwork delivers success.

Culture is what we allow to grow in our company

What does your company culture look and feel like? Company cultures have a strong influence on the success of companies. A strong culture attracts valuable human capital. A strong culture also encourages employees to be engaged. A strong culture challenges the status quo and innovates.

Rather than letting your company culture develop by accident, it is worth the effort planning and growing it deliberately and purposefully. These are simple yet difficult questions worth pondering. These questions are worth discussing and agreeing with your executive team.
* What do we care about?
* What do we believe in?
* What do we want to become?
* How do we want our company to act and make decisions in the future?

If there is a wide gap then we need clear actions and accountabilities to close the gap.

How is YOUR CULTURE defined in your company?

Communication is key

t is not a coincidence that influential leaders are great communicators. Great companies have leaders that are great communicators. They understand the importance of timely and transparent communication.

Transparency and alignment:

When I was still working for the largest commercial Bank in the Middle East, our CEO would hold townhall meetings with 200 or so Bank executives. Abdulkarim will meet us every quarter and walk us through the company performance of the previous quarter. He also carefully outlines his aspiration for the coming quarter and the rest of the year. This allowed us, the Banks executives, to sync our Division goals to the Company goals.

Learning from mistakes:

We learn more from mistakes than we do from our successes. It is no wonder that companies that do not learn from their mistakes are bound to repeat them. Not once, but repeatedly. The best companies in the world takes the time to assess projects and marketing campaigns post implementation. They learn from each experience and share this knowledge with others.

Know thyself and verify:

It is important that managers assess themselves honestly every now and then. We need to have the humility to assess their own performance and get feedback from the people we manage. That takes courage and wisdom. Not to mention, the tons of learning that can be achieved and improvements applied.

Some final tips on getting better at communicating in our organization:
Does our messages align to our core values? Do we walk the talk?
Am I saying something that’s new and exciting?
Are we authentic when we communicate?
Am I sending my message to the correct people using the right medium?
Am i keeping my humility in check as I have healthy discussions?

After all, effective communication is all about the recipient. Is my message clear and understood by my audience? That’s what matters.