In many organizations, the functional structure is the default approach to organize their people and their work. It is straight-forward for management purposes because one can associate expertise with work. Despite the many benefits, silo thinking has been a constant damper to operational efficiency. Silo thinking is a result of each functional area focusing on its own mandate, placing the needs of other areas secondary or ignoring them altogether. This leads to duplication of effort, clunky handoffs between groups, and rework.
There are five things you can do to overcome silo thinking.
- Educate on the big picture
It is difficult for the employees to appreciate the significance of their work if they don’t have a comprehensive view of the big picture. They become preoccupied with what they need to deliver. By educating each functional group how its work fits in the big scheme of things, they understand the upstream effects and the downstream impacts of their work. The awareness helps to alert them who they need to involve when issues arise.
- Focus on meaningful results
To avoid silo thinking, it is necessary to focus on results that represent holistic perspectives of the work involved. For example, the budgeting group is responsible for producing complete and timely budgets for the executives. The group’s success relies heavily on the input it gathers from the business units. If the business units aren’t clear on what information is needed, the budget would not be complete. Hence, being able to provide proper guidance to the business units is just as important. The inclusion of good guidance expands the group’s focus.
- Incentivize on collective performance
This supports the above on meaningful results. By focusing more on collective performance, employees pay more attention to getting others involved. Using the above example, providing good guidance should be added as a performance measure for the budgeting group. This removes the silo thinking that producing the budgets is the only responsibility of the group when educating the business units on budget information requirements is also its mandate.
- Reinforce team work through frequent communication
Frequent communication on the big picture and results reinforces the correlation of work amongst the different functional groups. When you share results on collective performance, it drives a sense of team effort and awareness of the connectedness of the business. Be open and share as much as you can. Employees are keen to know how well they perform and how they can improve.
- Foster interaction between groups
The daily whirlwind doesn’t allow much time for collaborative discussions other than issues that require immediate attention. There needs to be a regular platform for the key players from different functional groups gather and exchange ideas. The platform could be a monthly working session to table concerns and brainstorm solutions. The key is to establish a routine to keep the dialogue going.
Silos break up team work and drive conflicting agendas. Your business would be able to achieve better results when everyone works together with a collective mindset.