In part one of this series, we learned that the silo mentality sucks. Not only does it affect how your company runs internally, but it also harms your customers. The longer this mentality is allowed to grow and fester, the faster your company will start to crumble from the inside out.
We also discussed how, contrary to how it might intuitively seem, silo mentality starts from the top-down. It may demonstrate itself most obviously within the employees of the company, but it's really the management who unknowingly (or knowingly) encourage silos to form, and who also have the power to break them down.
Best case scenario, you aren't in a silo yet and you recognize the warning signs before you get into trouble. The hardest time to recognize that you are, in fact, in a silo is when you're already in too deep. It just seems normal to you. But if you take the time to step back and look for the warning signs, you may be surprised. Do any of these seem familiar?
It's important to remember that silo mentality starts slowly. You won't get to work one day and suddenly find yourself in scene out of Game of Thrones with everyone fighting, well, everyone.
But if you're not looking, you'll miss the early signs, which will turn into just how the business runs. Silos look a bit different to the general employee than to management, so what should you be looking for?
It may seem like looking for warning signs as a general employee is impossible. You may not have been there for very long, so there's no way for you to know if “everyday procedures” used to be something better. But if you answer yes to any of these questions, you may be working in a silo:
What's the common thread here? All of this silo behavior leads to a similar result: wasted time, money and energy. Revisit these questions every few months to make sure you're not slowly entering a silo — it's much harder to come out of once you're already in deep.
While it's important for everyone to constantly be on the look out for silo warning signs, as we've discussed before, silos begin and end with management. It's those in management who are the ones with the ability to make impactful changes within the company. If management is moving towards silos, the rest of the company will follow.
If your company is experiencing a lull in productivity or success, take notice on whether workers or management are blaming this on:
Blaming factors that are “out of their control” rather than taking responsibility for helping the company improve is a sign that people feel it's up to someone else to fix it and that they're doing the best they can at their own job. The reality is this: it's up to the business leaders to work together with the rest of the company to fix problems that arise and steer away from the silo mentality.
Though it's more common in larger companies (purely because of number) silo mentality can happen to anyone. Where size does make a difference, though, is based on how far into the silo mentality you are.
As mentioned before, the deeper in you are and the longer the mentality has been allowed to grow, the more difficult it will be to come out. That's why looking for warning signs and preventing it is the best solution — but that doesn't mean it's impossible to come out of.
Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, championed a “Work-Out” process that has been well-known to help break down silos within a company.
[Adapted from iSixSigma]
The purpose of this process is to help improve collaboration and speed up decision making processes by bypassing various organizational boundaries. It usually consists of people from all different parts of the company coming together into one room to discuss the issues at hand; by the time they leave the room they have a specific plan to fix it. It's then presented to the rest of the company and the senior executives to get the final sign-off.
Here we can see why size matters.
The most important part of these sessions within either type of company is making an immediate, but well-informed decision and sticking with it. Letting discussions drag out gives teams more time to doubt their plan rather than moving on a solution. Moving quickly on a plan with everyone rallied behind it will kickstart your company into breaking down the walls of the silo.
Just because you don't notice any signs now doesn't mean that they will never appear. As your company grows, the signs may start appearing slowly when you least expect them. Constantly check in every few months to make sure you're ready the initial stages can help you effectively take preventative measures to curb the silo mentality before it even forms.
In the final chapter of our three-part series, we'll discuss some tools that you can use within your company to help increase collaboration and communication. We'll discuss a few different organization and project management methods to help you find the perfect one for your company.