What are Organizational Silos and how to eliminate them?

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The word ‘Silo’ originally refers to a container that keeps the material inside it isolated from the other materials. It is mostly used in agriculture for bulk storing of grains, carbon black, sawdust, etc. However, now it is used as a metaphor for different entities that accumulate information, seal it, and refrain from sharing it.

In terms of business, Silo mentality is an unwillingness to disclose the information with the employees of a different division of the same organization. This mentality exists within a department and sometime also extends across the departments. This attitude is prevalent among small as well as large organizations. Moreover, clashing of egos, competing with seniors and rivalry of other kinds are only propelling and worsening the situation.

Silos are like fortresses formed within the organizations that guard the information and ban it from sharing.

The ‘Silo followers’ discourage the free flow of information and effectively seal it. And, this is adversely damaging the efficiency, productivity, and corporate culture of the company. Moreover, if such a culture exists for a long time, it can put your company’s growth at stake. Therefore, it is important to know the major factors causing silos and take actions to timely eradicate them.

How Organizational Silos occur?

No company plans to experience silos and bear the damages caused by them. But, becoming familiar with the factors that cause them and taking timely actions can help in keeping your company’s resources and information in order. First, let’s have a look at the factors causing silos.

 

Organizational Silo occurs:

  • When there is a long-held competition between senior managers. Often carried away by personal grudges and competition, managers become protective towards sharing the information. Hence, the information is dispersed only to the trusted and within the small group of employees.
  • When individual employees seal the information for their personal advantage. This happens when the employees of competing departments (for example, consider Sales and Marketing team) have duties to perform that some or the other way overlap.
  • When employees become more loyal to a group or a department than to their business owner.
  • When ‘distrust’ replaces ‘teamwork’. When trust disappears, it becomes hard for employees to work together as a team. And, the chances are that they will not share their ideas and information that can benefit the company in effective decision-making.
  • When there is lack of cross-communication. No smooth channel to communicate can hinder the workflow and information which is to be passed freely. This can further lead to departments working inaccurately with outdated information.

 

Silos are the exact opposite of what an organization requires. So, there is a need to create horizontal visibility throughout the organization & establish effective governing measures.

 

How to break organizational silos

Silo mentality is not easy to break. Attitudes are difficult to change, especially when there is zero self-interest. The best way to dismantle silos is to incorporate a habit of effective ‘collaboration, communication, and cooperation’ among the employees.

  • Create a unified vision and work towards achieving a common goal. Share the vision across the small divisions and large departments. Encourage teamwork and collaborative sharing of information.
  • Develop and install an ERP system or company-wide software that can help you record, track, verify, and access all the business activities and the employees to whom activities are assigned.
  • Conduct learning sessions and training seminar that can bring employee engagement. This can help employees to get to know each other and value each others’ opinion.
  • Consider changing the employee compensation structure in a way that can contribute to the company-wide goals.

 

Silo becomes damaging for a business when each department and team focuses only on its core functions and duties and leaving out the others. And, if effective engagement and collaboration are not encouraged, it can disrupt the essential business functions. Therefore, you need to create horizontal visibility across the organization to timely detect the problem before it damages the people and process productivity.