What is ‘Silo’ mentality…and how to break it…

Organisational ‘silo’ syndrome is a mind-set where barriers develop between and among an organisation’s departments and functions. The term ‘silo’ is a metaphor suggesting a similarity between grain silos that segregate one type of grain from another and the segregated parts of an organisation. Organisational silos are a problem for businesses both small and large and no business, institution, or government department is immune from it.

In an organisation suffering from silo syndrome, each department or function interacts primarily within that ‘silo’ rather than with other groups across the organisation. Each department may develop its own culture, almost like a fortress, and have difficulty interacting with other departments or functions.

When employees interact poorly with others outside of their ‘silo,’ it becomes difficult for the business to operate efficiently.

Types of silos…

Within a business, silos come in many forms – functional, channel, geographical and even hierarchical. It’s also important to note that silos can be vertical or horizontal. Silos can be made up of staff in one department or extend across several departments that have similar functions and senior staff can often become completely isolated from lower management levels.

As the silo illustrates a real ‘inside out’ thinking, the impact they have on the way we deal with customers is huge.

How Silos Form…

Silos form when employees develop more loyalty to a group than to the employer. As silos solidify, members become more insular and distrustful of other employees or departments. Once trust disappears, it becomes increasingly difficult for groups to work together. Lack of direction from the top regarding regular meetings and formal communication gives tacit permission for employees to form silos.

The Effect…

Organisational silos are usually resistant to change, operating to prevent easy access to the information they hold and throwing up barriers to change and cooperation. Silos breed insular thinking and make it difficult for communication and collaboration to occur across units as each group works to protect its own interests and not the best for the overall business or its customers.

Unfortunately silos encourage behaviours such as insular thinking that are not in the best interest of the overall business or its customers.

Silos stifle creativity and innovation and restrict clarity of vision across the organisation, which leads to poor decision-making as well as impacting on morale, efficiency and profitability.

The Impact…

An organisation suffering from silo syndrome cannot act quickly on opportunities that arise in a fast-paced business landscape, nor is it able to make productive decisions about how to change in order to seize these opportunities.

Silos can also seriously damage customer experience because rather than being a seamless entity and speaking to the customer in one voice, mixed messages are presented. Each silo has its own view of the customer and the landscape they exist in, each from its own perspective. This causes the customer to see the organisation as disjointed and dysfunctional, leading to a lack of trust, irritation and creating a feeling that the company is simply incompetent.

The Solution…

The work to break down existing silo syndrome isn’t easy, but is critical in the long term if the organisation is to stay competitive and profitable. An ‘outside-in’ customer centric structure must be created.

Needless formality and hierarchy must be eliminated. Formality fuels silos and poisons collaboration with staff less likely to reach across silos to innovate and make better decisions. All staff must be brought together from all relevant points of view, levels, divisions and locations and regular meetings must be held.

Most importantly, you must create physical office spaces that facilitate and encourage collaboration between all levels of management and staff throughout your organisation. You need to try to eliminate hierarchical cubicle-type office layouts and introduce open plan team working spaces. Make the spaces configurable on the fly so that users can design their environments as needed.

Make provision to easily share data with one another so people understand how each division is performing, what customer or external stakeholder complaints are, and where this room for improvement.

Interia can help you to break down silo syndrome by creating an office space that reflects modern office design that encourages and facilitates collaboration and efficiency. Call us on +61 8 9359 1288 today.

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