Stop Working in Silos for Good (and for Your Own Good)

Temps de lecture : 7 mn
Emmanuelle Abensur
Emmanuelle Abensur
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Temps de lecture : 7 minutes

Collaborative work is a gust of wind in the sails for your company’s performance. Here’s proof: a Stanford study showed that people who work collaboratively are 50% more efficient at completing a task than those who work alone. So why after the disappearance of COVID-19 do so many companies continue to collaborate so scattered and scatterbrained?

According to Dynatrace, half of all CIOs feel that their IT and sales teams work too much in isolation from one another. The causes are many, including lack of communication, absence of the same vision and goals, unsuitable tools, and even toxic management. It’s important to identify the causes so you can find the right solution.

In this article, we answer all the questions you may have about working in silos:

  • What does this metaphor really mean?
  • What are the different types of silos at work, and how can I identify them?
  • Why should we stop working in silos?
  • How can we put an end to silos?

Time to decompartmentalize: 👇

Working in silos: the unboxing

What it really means

If you’ve ever looked up the term “silo” on the Internet, you’ve probably stumbled across pictures of tall silos and green pastures on a farm: a large tank used to store different types of grain and seeds. The metaphor applies well to how many large organizations work.

In business, a silo is a collection of data accessible only to certain employees and/or departments. Like agricultural silos, organizational silos operate in isolation from the outside world.

Working in silos means that members of an organization work independently—without sharing information. In a company filled with silos, working and management methods can vary from one team to the next.

Different types of work silos

There are four main types of corporate silos. 

Different types of silos when you're working in silos

Departmental silos

These are linked to the compartmentalization of the company’s various departments. 

➡️ A few telltale signs: 

  • Employees interact very little with colleagues in other departments.
  • They don’t help each other.
  • They only share information with their own team.
  • Each department has opposing—even contradictory—goals.
  • Teams tend to blame each other for their mistakes.

Hierarchical silos

These are linked to a hierarchical structure that stifles communication (such as the traditional top-down pyramid model). 

➡️ Telltale signs: 

  • Employees have to go through a series of complex processes to share information internally.
  • They get most of their information directly from their manager, who in turn gets his information from their manager (and so on up the chain of command).
  • Information flows only downwards—not transversally or upwards.
  • Employees don’t see the link between the company’s objectives and what they’re working on.

Information silos 

These are linked to poor internal information sharing

➡️ Telltale signs: 

  • Teams use a hodge-podge of different tools and processes to share information internally.
  • Information is dispersed over a multitude of different media (email, databases, intranet, storage space, etc.).
  • Information is not shared with the right people, creating information overload or an information blackout for some people.

Geographical silos 

These are linked to physical distance, language and even the different time slots that separate multi-site teams.

➡️ Telltale signs: 

  • Employees do not have access to the same level of information depending on where they are and/or what language they speak.
  • Each office operates autonomously, with little communication with staff at other sites.
  • Tools and work processes may vary from one office to another.

Why should we stop working in silos?

When a company works in silos, teams have stymied access to information. This can have repercussions that quickly add up to loss in productivity: 

  • loss of time (finding the right contacts and other information)
  • wasted resources (duplicated work due to lack of communication)
  • inconsistencies between different teams’ data
  • faltering employee commitment and motivation
  • lack of initiative (the more compartmentalized the organization, the less daring employees are to break out of the mold)
  • slow decision-making and problem-solving
  • reduced sense of belonging to the company

Obviously, the best way to avoid all these negative factors is to stop working in silos. 

5 best practices to put an end to working in silos

To put an end to silo work, several elements will have to evolve: 

Follow the best practices below to drive change step by step.

1. Improve transparency within the organization

If you want to stop working in silos, you have to start by improving transparency at all levels of the organization. This means clarifying: 

  • the company’s vision and strategy for the short, medium, and long haul
  • objectives and KPIs to be achieved at company and team level
  • roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities
  • common work processes
  • the projects each team are responsible for

Communicating on all these elements will create alignment between the different teams and ensure that they are working towards a common goal. 

Several tools can help you make this information easily accessible. The Holaspirit solution is a one-stop-shop since it allows you to:

Stop working in silos by mapping roles and responsibilities on Holaspirit
Role mapping on Holaspirit

2. Adopt a participative management approach

Adopting a directive management style that gives all the power to the manager often tends to aggravate organizational silos. To avoid this, we advise you to opt for participative or collaborative management

Whereas participative management involves employees in decision-making, collaborative management promotes cooperation to achieve common goals. Several methodologies, such as holacracy, sociocracy and the teal organization, embody the principles of these management modes. Although different, they all share a common objective: to develop employees’ autonomy and initiative.

Favoring this type of management approach not only gives employees a stake in the company but also fosters innovation and a spirit of mutual networking and support. Ultimately, this tears down the organization’s silos, thereby allowing employees to collaborate in innovative ways.

3. Create a collaborative culture

In addition to changes in management style, mindsets also need changing in order to completely eliminate silos. The best way to achieve this? Create a culture that puts collaboration at the heart of your company! Here are just a few ideas:

  • create rituals for intra- and inter-team collaboration (like weekly/monthly meetings and knowledge-sharing workshops)
  • set up an information governance system that clarifies how and on which tool(s) to share information
  • clarify which information to share on common channels and which to share privately
  • implement a continuous feedback process
  • create a climate of psychological security where everyone feels free to take the initiative—even if that could mean making mistakes
  • develop team cohesion through teambuilding activities

All this will help to develop team spirit and cross-functional collaboration—and thus put an end to working in silos.

4. Centralize your data in an all-in-one tool

Making the right choice of tools is essential to breaking down organizational silos. Instead of scattering your information across a multitude of solutions, choose an all-in-one tool that will centralize your data.

If you’re looking for an easy-to-use collaborative tool, Talkspirit‘s got you covered. ISO 27001 certified, our platform keeps your data secure without ever compromising on the user experience. You can use it to: 

Gone are the communication problems associated with hybrid or multi-site organizations. With Talkspirit, everyone can access the same level of information no matter where they’re working.

Sharing information on Talkspirit using publications
Sharing information on Talkspirit

5. Continuously train your teams

Finally, let’s not forget that no matter how good your tools are, your teams won’t know how to use them! That’s why it’s essential to invest in a continuous training program to help practices evolve. 

Training not only allows you to familiarize your employees with your new tools and work processes, but also to explain to them why it’s in their interest to use them. After all, why should they make an effort if it’s not going to help them? The “why” is just as important as the “how.” To make change meaningful, don’t just give tutorials!

Also, don’t forget to vary the training formats to suit your different employee profiles. Some will prefer to train at their own pace while others will enjoy more dynamic group training. A few may even prefer mentoring.

Be flexible, and lead by example. There’s nothing like managers who show by example—continuously training and upgrading while encouraging their teams to do likewise!

A final word

Applying these best practices is the first step in breaking down silos and improving collaboration within your organization. For the approach to be effective, you’ll need to involve all your internal stakeholders—especially management. This may take time, but it’s essential if change is to be implemented throughout the company, and not just for certain teams.

Wanting to give your managers a boost? Download our white paper “New Forms of Leaderships for the New Generation” to explore new management styles companies are adopting:  

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In the Next Generation Leadership white paper, you will discover: the skills that every great leader should possess, the different possible management styles, as well as methods and best practices for implementing them within your organization.

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