Want to blow up the silos? Go back to basics.
With the advent of digital technology, not only have our consumption patterns changed, but also our entire structural environment, starting with the organisation of work. While siloed work is tending to disappear, or at least organisations are working to make it disappear, hotbeds of resistance, often led by members of Generation X, are still alive and kicking.
So we can ask ourselves, is the operation of the silo really dead or does it have a real advantage? If there is no benefit, then how do we blow up the silos?
What does "working in silos" mean?
Working in silos means that each department works on its own specialities without worrying about the others. To give just one example: It is as if your process engineering department works on the projects sold without agreeing, step by step, with the sales department about the customer's needs and requirements. In fact, in a company that operates in silos, there is no sharing of information or resources, and no cross-functional communication, i.e. departments communicate little or nothing with each other.
The hierarchical system is very present and the management is pyramidal, i.e. employees are relieved of responsibility and their autonomy and creativity is curbed. This type of organisation generally leads to duplication of tasks, loss of time and often financial loss. In short, it is an obsolete way of operating that is detrimental to the overall performance of the company and is not adapted to the digital transformation that we are currently experiencing.
Moreover, generations Y and Z are bringing a new wind and are not ready to work in silos. The need to understand their actions and to have a vision of the company as a whole is key for them.
What do the supporters of silo operation think?
Despite the fact that digital technology is bringing structural changes, some companies are resistant to agile methods. The advocates of silos are mostly Generation X. This accustomed generation has a verticality of decisions, a well-established structure and respect for hierarchy. This type of management leads, when pushed to its peak, to micro-management that is toxic for employees from Generations Y and Z.
However, multidisciplinarity and exchanges between departments are not a necessity. Advocates of silos want above all to supervise their employees, the information and results of each department, sometimes even to the detriment of the company.
How do you blow the silo?
You've probably already heard the expression " decompartmentalising the company", which has become very trendy in recent years. With the advent of digital technology, organisations have evolved, leading to a change in the way we work, which has altered the way companies operate. Today, companies wishing to be more efficient and productive must totally rethink their working methods and encourage collaboration between departments. This type of organisation has many advantages such as :
the achievement of the company's overall objectives;
• better visibility and communication between departments;
• a better collaboration within the company;
• greater flexibility and responsiveness;
• the absence of hierarchy and the empowerment of employees;
• the circulation and sharing of information.
5 simple components for blowing up silos
In practice, it is not easy to break out of a traditional hierarchical organisation. It involves changing the culture of the company as well as the working methods. However, as it is often the case, a return to the basics of management will help to eliminate silos.
1. Communicate a common vision and goals
Typically, in silo organisations, employees focus on their individual and departmental goals and lose sight of the overall corporate objectives. Often, some departments even feel they are in competition with each other, and rather than collaborating, they will, in the worst case, intentionally withhold information to put their "rivals" in trouble. In organisations operating in silos, sentences such as "it's not in my P&L", "it's not in my objectives" or those that begin with "I'd like to help, but..." are commonplace. Such an attitude is detrimental to the success of projects and the success of the company. To avoid it, you need to communicate clearly about the company's common vision and long-term goals and how each department should participate in this overall vision.
This overview where each department and each employee will understand their place within the organisation and their contribution to the achievement of the company's objectives must always be put in perspective of the organisation's value chain. The value chain, punctuated by the organization's processes, is the central pillar of the organisation. If this value chain is not conscious and recognised by each and every employee, you will not be able to break down the silos.
2. Promote collaboration between teams
To break down organisational silos, you need to encourage teams to work and interact together on pre-defined common goals. To do this, organise regular joint meetings and discussion groups where each employee gets to know the members of the other teams, their role and how they can work together to achieve project and therefore company objectives. The company's desilotation is also physical and also involves better organisation of the premises. The days when HR was on the first floor, production on the second and finance on the third are over. Reorganise the offices by promoting a collaborative environment where departments mix with each other to avoid isolation and facilitate the dissemination of information.
3. Creating teams around projects
To work efficiently and succeed in all your projects, set up multidisciplinary teams, for example with a member of each department involved in the project (technical, marketing, sales, product, etc.), from the very beginning of a project. In this way, you foster collaboration throughout the value chain and facilitate communication between each department. Thus involved from the very beginning of the project, the employees of each department will do their utmost to make the project a success. They will be less reluctant to share resources and information because they will not be in competition with each other, but will see themselves individually as part of the chain.
4. Using collaborative tools
In today's digital age, there are many tools and applications available that promote team collaboration and facilitate communication and the sharing of ideas and information. These tools are ideal for breaking down organisational and geographic silos, allowing employees to easily work together, regardless of their location.
5. Train your teams to work collaboratively
Finally, training is an excellent way to succeed in effectively and sustainably „desilotate” your business. Familiarise management with the importance of processes but also with the different types of Generations X, Y and Z. Then spread the teaching to the employees by emphasising the natural interweaving of the processes that together form the value chain of the organization's core business. In this way you will give meaning to the work of each person in the whole organisation and you will also develop the need for the support functions to become business partners.
Today, we know that to work effectively on projects, the company can no longer work in silos where employees do not worry about the impact on other departments of the company. Let the silos gently explode and give meaning to your company's goal: to serve the customer, grow as a team and generate profits.