Ah, the dreaded silos. Capable of squashing communication both horizontally and vertically and encouraging bunker mentalities. Studies have shown time and time again that silos can be a significant hindrance to the growth of an organization. The bottom line: leadership has to find a way to keep the lines of communication open across various boundaries to encourage cooperation. It sounds simple, but it can be slightly more difficult than herding cats, depending on how long these turf battles have been going on and how entrenched employees are in this behavior.
Recognizing Silo Formation
There are many tell-tale signs that silos are forming. You may be surprised to find out that there are projects going on in other parts of the organization that you are ‘out of the loop’ on. Maybe you have been actively spearheading an effort or project that part or most of the organization doesn’t even know about. Or you notice that the amount of communication between yourself and other leaders is dwindling. If any of these scenarios resonate with you, silos have probably already become an issue.
Getting Rid of Your Organization’s Communication Silos
Focus on the common goal. The satisfaction of your clients/customers/patients should be a common rallying point for everyone in your organization. Without them, you wouldn’t have an organization. Focusing on providing the best experience for those you serve should be a prime motive for cohesiveness and teamwork.
Communicate transparently. Keep all of your employees in the loop with regular updates about what is going on with the organization as a whole, what products or initiatives are under way, what gains have been made, and what challenges you are currently facing.
Identify the issue and present it as a problem-solving opportunity. Although a communication breakdown can put people in crisis mode, don’t present it that way. Instead, look at it as a problem-solving opportunity where everyone can get involved to better the organization using positive and open communication techniques.
Kick the silo doors open. Regularly schedule time that allows the various divisions and/or leaders to come together to update others on the current projects, campaigns, issues, and possible improvements. Clearly communicate to everyone that this is not a blame session; rather, it is an opportunity to rally the troops, encourage collaboration and ideas, and keep everyone on the same page. After all, one division’s problem can often spill over and become the whole organization’s problem. Consequently, initiatives can be even more successful when departments team up to help each other.
Compile a ‘coalition of the willing’ (and able) to eliminate barriers. Gather people from various divisions and/or levels who are committed to changing the current operations. Rather than picking these people, have them apply so you can see how committed they really are. This team should:
- a) contain key employees so change isn’t blocked by those not in the coalition.
- b) include tried-and-true leaders within the organization to initiate and drive the process of change.
- c) be diverse enough to represent all relevant viewpoints within the organization.
- d) have the credibility to be taken seriously.
Once your team has been chosen, give them the opportunity to get together and connect in a meaningful way so they can build trust and bond. Cultivate the effort by meeting regularly. Encourage team members to talk with each other outside of the confines of the meetings and pass along messages to others in their respective departments. Don’t forget to keep your senior leadership involved throughout the process to ensure that the coalition has the backing to make the needed changes.
Improve Communication Skills
Reversing a communication breakdown can be daunting, but by incorporating some of the ideas above, you can bust through those silos and let the ideas and communication flow freely. Need help improving communication in your organization? Our effective communication skills training program can help your leadership and staff communicate effectively for increased productivity. To learn more or get a quote on our business consulting services, click here.