Silos, a cultural phenomenon when organizations become burdened by bureaucracy. The phrase “That’s not my job” is a very strong indicator of silo mentality. Important stuff doesn’t get done because everyone is busy pointing fingers or trying to protect their own necks. It’s great source material for a popular comic series (dilbert.com), but – joking aside – silos stifle innovation, drive away high-performers, obfuscate decision-making, and contradict operational efficiency.
NASA was awesome in the 1960’s because their only mission for the entire organization was to be the first group to put a man on the moon. Janitors, engineers, astronauts, and management were all moving in the same direction and making decisions to support that singular outcome. Realistically, silos are embedded into the culture of an organization and rallying to be the first to put a man on the moon has already been done. Breaking down silos today is difficult work.
The first step is to recognize and acknowledge silo mentality.
- How are people being held accountable?
- Is information being freely shared between groups?
- Are there disparate systems that are hindering effective communication?
- How quickly does the organization respond to disaster?
The next step is to understand how much it is costing the organization.
- Is product/service quality suffering, are deadlines being pushed
- Are loyal customers leaving?
- Are new customers being turned away?
- Are inventories piling up?
- Are actual numbers falling short of forecasts?
The third step is to re-build trust among opposing groups.
- Cross functional teams can shed light on the benefits of working together
- Strong senior leadership that embodies the mission, vision, and values and effects will trickle down
- Incentives that reward collaborative behavior
A culture that embraces silo thinking will resist change, never be able to achieve optimal operational performance, not be resilient enough to adapt to external forces, and will ultimately fail. If you’re experiencing evidence of silo mentality in your organization, we would be happy to work with you to evaluate your specific situation. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.