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Breaking the silos

It’s not news: silos hurt the performance of an organization. Teams are fighting against each other for budget, instead of teaming collaboratively to reach our common goals. This is created when decisions are made that creates some kind of competition between groups of people. For example, when the organization is structured in functions and the leadership spend more time to protect their function’s budget or when the different functions have different (conflicting) priorities.

When the “us vs them” culture hurts the organization’s results

Silos are sometimes created without realizing the negative impact it will have. Leaders make them happen to foster some sense of belonging between people working in the same domain. But soon, the formed tribe becomes competitive against other groups and the “us vs them” mentality is very quick in place.

However, this impacts a lot the organization as a whole:

  • it generates data silos, preventing people from making informed decisions,
  • it creates barriers between people, negatively impacting the workspace (physical or virtual),
  • it prevents teams from developing a collective intelligence, that would enable emergent solutions to be found for the endless changes and new problems arising,
  • as a domino effect, it hurts the revenue and internal elements like retention rate, as people are more busy to fight against each other internally, than being focused on their customer’s satisfaction.

When you find out that this is the case, it’s time to consider options to connect the dots.

Getting out of the silos

It starts by creating and communicating a shared purpose.

Bringing a common center of interest to all is maybe the most effective on the long run, as it creates an internal motivation. It requires leadership to embrace this purpose and tell the story to their team to invite them to follow.

A great way for this is to help them connect the dots between the organization’s purpose and their own.

Sharing a common purpose also brings a great sense of belonging to the teams, as everyone can connect to the same story.

It also comes by sharing common objectives or results.

Using methods like OKR can help defining common objectives for several teams which then have to deliver key results towards it.

It can also be a common key result for several teams, that will make them work collaboratively.

Organize the work with cross-functional teams.

Another idea, brought by agile ways of working, is to design teams according to the skills required to achieve a specific goal. Rather than spitting the organization by function, look at the competencies and form small complementary teams.

These teams work for a certain amount of time on a dedicated product, solution, process… and, once done, they can go after a new goal and meet new team members.

Enable a culture of curiosity and coaching.

All of these tactics are great and they should be supported by a strong “we” culture.

People from the organization shall be encouraged to develop their curiosity and learn from each other. In this sense, learning a few coaching skills can be interesting, such as asking open-ended questions and creating a safe space for others to speak up.

This helps fostering understanding of others, rather than judgment, and make people better connect things together as they create awareness for themselves and the group.

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