“Individual commitment to a group effort: That is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”
– Vince Lombardi
Is there an ‘us versus them’ mentality in your business’ departments? Breaking your staff into set areas is an instinctive way to structure a company, but one that can be detrimental to productivity. Larger companies are prone to separating into divisions where it’s solely the managers that organise cross-communication.
This structure has been popularly coined a ‘Silo Mentality’ and has led to the downfall of business giants. Conversely, breaking down these silos has allowed other companies to flourish and acquire superior workflow.
As a business owner or manager, you’ve likely heard of this principle or something along the same lines. But creating silos is a gradual and sneaky process that can catch you off guard until it slowly becomes the norm in your work environment.
Leaders of some of the world’s biggest companies have had to reinvent themselves to break down their businesses’ divisions.
WHAT ARE SILOS?
Silos form most commonly within large companies that are required to manage an array of tasks. A silo mentality is a reluctance or inability to share information with employees from other divisions in the same company. This barrier of information can be caused by several reasons, some of which include poor organisation, power struggles, improper management, fear of rejection or laziness.
Simply put, a silo is formed when a department separates itself from the rest of the organisation and is reluctant to involve people from outside the niche. This can lead to several issues from poor communication to a disrupted work environment and lower workflow.
When this work environment is formed, people become tunnel-visioned and only think about the success of their silo, with little consideration of the company’s overall success. Staff may conclude that it is not their responsibility to coordinate activities with peers or other groups. This can create several grey zones in your business, where multiple divisions assume a whole range of things simply aren’t their concern.
HOW TO BREAK SILOS DOWN
When faced against vehicle manufacturing giants, founder of Tesla Elon Musk understood that he couldn’t play the same game if his then-fledgling business was to compete. If Tesla was to become successful, Musk said it had to work with better “intelligence and agility” than the powerhouse competition.
So Musk wrote a message to every Tesla employee to redefine the organisation’s goal and rally all staff under clear objectives. Musk also insisted that Tesla resist the urge to divide into sections and instead operate as a unified front.
“Managers should work hard to ensure that they are not creating silos within the company that create an us vs. them mentality or impede communication in any way,” Musk said.
“How can it possibly help Tesla for depts to erect barriers between themselves or see their success as relative within the company instead of collectively? We are all in the same boat. Always view yourself as working for the good of the company and never your department.”
Inc. wrote a fantastic article which further goes into Musk’s ‘No Silo’ rule and also touches on how Apple CEO Steve Jobs used the approach to leapfrog media giant Sony.
At the bottom line, silos are created because of poor communication and often competition between managers. To combat silos, openness between departments must be encouraged and better practices of cross-communication must be encouraged.
Here are some tips to consider:
- Create a unified company goal which can be applied across all departments.
- Encourage collaborative sharing and cross-silo leadership.
- Utilise software which tracks progress to company goals and can streamline communication between departments.
- Hold social events and seminars which allow employees to connect personally and professionally.
- Redefine how your company views goals so departments are less likely to fixate on their independent success and rather dedicate themselves to goals which better the company as a whole.