Super charge your business performance – break down your silos

Super charge your business performance – break down your silos

Is your organisation being held back by the divisions created by a silo mentality? If you find it challenging to coordinate fragmented teams; aren’t unable to respond quickly enough to opportunities and sense a negative culture is taking hold – then the answer could be a resounding yes.

A ‘silo mentality’

as defined by the Business Dictionary as: a mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. This type of mentality will reduce efficiency in the overall operation, reduce morale, and may contribute to the demise of a productive company culture.

With information at our finger tips and increasingly dynamic and high-tech ways of communication springing up all the time, you’d think that a silo mentality would be a thing of the past. But if your organisation still operates in silos, you certainly aren’t alone.

Many organisations still operate in a hierarchical, fragmented fashion with deep divisions between the different functions, locations or divisions.

In large monolithic organisations like the NHS for instance, inflexibility due to size and prevailing ways or working that set one function against another, hamper the ability to respond to change with agility.

The problem with a silo mentality

So whereas in farming the barriers created by silos protect vital grain stores from vermin and the elements, the barriers created by organisational silos only serve to create the kind of division and resentments that hamper productivity, and destroy employee satisfaction.

Silos and the turf wars they enable – devastate organisations.  They waste resources, kill productivity, and jeopardize the achievement of goals.”
Patrick Lencioni – Silos, Politics and Turf Wars

The inflexibility of siloed organisations means they are unable to act quickly to take advantage of opportunities that arise in a fast changing environment.

Silos also contribute to a fractured, negative company culture, with each function or department and its leader jostling for position, competing for resources and withholding information.

Not the kind of environment that high-flying employees want to be part of for very long.

It is not reasonable or practical to go so far as completely restructure to build cross function teams – it’s not something that can be changed overnight.

However, you can introduce principles and practices that increase your people’s ability to expand their horizons beyond their own departmental fiefdom, stepping away from deep division towards effective collaboration.

How to break down the silos

As with any cultural change, your leadership needs to set the tone. Silos are often symptomatic of a conflicted leadership team so it’s essential to take a top down approach.

1. Establish a unified vision.

Just like a medal winning rowing squad all your employees need to be pulling in the same direction with the executive team at the forefront steering the boat. A unified leadership team will be able to rise above the ‘my department’ mentality and into an organisational approach.

2. Set a common goal for everyone to work towards.

Define the one top priority that everyone can work together to achieve. Once that is establish, whether it is to increase the quality of patient care, boost fundraising income, or improve customer service ratings then you need to ensure that each team understands their role in the ‘supply chain’ to achieving that goal.

This big picture approach builds each function’s appreciation for the contribution of all others and builds an appreciation of the value everyone brings to achieving the common goal.

3. Understand individual motivations.

What drives your finance team is not the same as what get your clinicians out of bed in the morning. Similarly, what inspires commitment from your sales people isn’t what motivates your administrative team.

Furthermore, individual motivations will vary from person to person. Your leaders need to tap into all of these differences, present the common goal in a way that appeals to each and incentivise them accordingly.

The goal is to avoid an “it’s not my job” attitude and encourage everyone to contribute, work as a team and contribute positively to the vision.

4. Formalise cross-function collaboration.

Geography and other practical considerations can make cross function impractical on a day-to-day basis. If your finance team are in one location while your clinical team or other front line staff are in various locations, or even mobile or on the road, then unless you make collaboration happen it probably won’t.

The answer is to provide a formal process by which collaboration can take place alongside existing working patterns. This can fast track what might otherwise take years of restructuring to achieve.

25 year ago Jack Welch, then CEO of GE, promoted the benefits of a ‘boundaryless’ organisation. To create it he initiated the ‘work-out’ process.

This took the form of a series of structured, facilitated forums that brought people from different functions together to solve problems and make decisions right there and then.

Bringing in an external facilitator with the skills to cut through departmental divisions by asking the tough questions that might otherwise go unasked, can ensure the process goes smoothly and successfully.

So is your silo mentality holding your organisation back? Find out more about how we can help you break down the divisions that are hampering your effectiveness call us on 01883 722008 or email


The Silo Mentality: How To Break Down the Barriers, Forbes

Jack Welch’s Approach to Breaking Down Silos Still Works, Harvard Business Review

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