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.