The existence of business silos is ultimately a leadership opportunity, and they often occur inadvertently as a company grows. Developing separate entities inside a business with their own managers, employees, goals, and metrics create this sense of division within a company.
What are Business Silos?
Unlike many terms in business jargon that seem to come and go with little lasting impact, business silos are a persistent problem modern business has faced for decades. Many experienced managers and management specialists believe business silos are a natural development as a business grows beyond its unified roots into a more complex departmental institution.
In other words, dealing with silos is a universal problem that businesses face as they make the difficult transition from a small to medium or large company.
Can Business Silos be Avoided, Despite Growth?
Fortunately, the broad experience with silos in modern business means that they are a well-understood aspect of medium and large-sized businesses, with a well-established approach to dealing with them.
While the effects of silos may manifest in the actions of a company’s employees, only the company’s leadership team is in the position to actively degrade the cultural effects of a growing silo mentality and promote a synergizing attitude toward company-wide teamwork.
Leaders must actively and explicitly set the tone for helping each other across departmental lines by leading the way and setting the example. Managers should promote positive attitudes toward other departments and simultaneously discourage negative ones.
Leaders should also reward examples of positive cross-departmental efforts and initiatives with praise and promotions. Finally, the management of a company needs to constantly represent a unified front to its employees and always promote the sense of working together toward common goals, even when the individual tasks and metrics involved will be unique to each department.
Cohesive leadership teams can prevent silos from being an issue in the first place by anticipating the probability.
Do We Realize There is a Problem?
There may be busy leaders who do not even realize they have created a silo as the business has grown; they may be too busy or not open to change. Lack of communication, or selective communication is a common indicator a business silo exists. At X5 Management, we often conduct surveys and assessments, and we find it common for employees to comment that they wish they received more information from senior leaders.
Teams may not always work together closely, or directly, but if projects or tasks are often independent, without coordination of subject matter experts, it can indicate silos exist. Cross-departmental efforts are an excellent way of pooling expertise and keeping all key members in the know. This also creates efficiency and avoids efforts are duplicated. Leadership should regularly evaluate cross-functional collaborations and efforts.
Extreme internal competition can indicate employees, or departments, are more centered on their own accomplishments rather than the success of the business, and that is never good for overall success. A “we versus them” culture is a tell tale sign a lack of collaboration and teamwork exists.
If employees are resistant to change and worried they may lose their autonomy, the culture suggests collaborative efforts are low, and this resistance does not allow for integration, exposure, or ideal communication. This type of culture discourages knowledge sharing and confines employees to a limited role, and therefore also discourages interest in the bigger picture of business performance and growth.
Recognizing the presence of silos by leadership is the first step towards addressing the issue and fostering a more collaborative and integrated work environment that leads to sharing of information, performance and ultimately teamwork.
Tips for Overcoming Business Silos
- Create a unified front, ensuring any disagreements occur behind closed doors
- Consider collaboration between departments a priority and communicate the same between personnel
- Invest in training programs that promote teamwork, conflict resolution and emotional intelligence
- Ensure a superior and transparent communication protocol exists within the company and one that involves feedback from all levels
- Implement a culture of celebration that involves celebratory events and team building events
Can Strategic Planning Help Overcome the Business Silo Mentality?
The development of business silos is often the first real test of a growing company’s ability to manage more complex institutional problems medium and large companies inevitably face.
Tackling the problem of silos head-on can be an excellent way of improving a team’s resilience.
Ensuring the right people in the right leadership roles exist to face the coming challenges that growing success will bring.
Consideration should also be given to annual strategic planning. Ideally, this also involves an objective outside facilitator who can lend a fresh perspective.
Strategic planning involves a close look at what is going well, but it also means looking at what must be done differently. That assessment should be offered by many internal and some external stakeholders involved with the company. Senior leadership must ensure a candid assessment is conducted and the sharing of information has no repercussions.
The ideal outcome of a strategic planning session includes:
- An elimination of inter-departmental information hoarding
- A focused action plan that includes cross-functional efforts and abjectives
- Employee and leadership training that includes Transformational Learning and Behavioral Change
- A deep dive into current culture and specific actions required to achieve the desired outcome
- An expectation leadership leads by example, at all times
- Creation of a vision that can include and engage the entire team
- Key Performance Indicators that include all the measurables to determine a successful outcome of a shared effort
Finding Helpful Resources
Fortunately, business leaders do not need to face this serious challenge alone.
At X5 Management, we specialize in problems like business silos. We have the expertise and experience you need to ensure a leadership team can tackle silos and other similar problems with ease and confidence. We often recommend beginning with foundational training that emphasizes communication through learning what drives us, learning what drives others, and learning how to build better relationships by understanding others.
We also have a team of coaches and facilitators to guide and support the ongoing performance of leaders and serve as advisors and sounding boards when team and people issues arise. The coach’s role is to enhance the ongoing performance of the leader. An X5 coach will develop a program specific to the individual needs, with recommendations that will support overall goals and objectives. The ideal approach is to coach the whole person not just the employee, while exploring such topics as what does the future look like for them both professionally and personally.
In addition, we offer a variety of virtual and in-person tailored training programs for any business, including Customer Service, Sales Growth, Team Building, Conflict Resolution, Strategic Planning, and more.