Tear Down the Silos

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Tear Down the Silos

It is the duty of the leaders and management to prepare and equip their teams with the proper mindset and vision to break down these destructive organizational barriers.

Brent Gleeson wrote an interesting piece for Inc.com where he expounded on another bane of modern management:  Company Silos.  Gleeson feels that the silo mentality can be defined as a mindset when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same organization. And this type of mentality will reduce efficiency in the overall operation, reduce trust and morale, and may contribute to the demise of productive company culture.

Departmental silos are seen as a growing pain for most organizations of all sizes. It is the duty of the leaders and management to prepare and equip their teams with the proper mindset and vision to break down these destructive organizational barriers.

Bring in the Seals

In the Navy SEAL teams – and the platoon, troop and Team level, we approach leadership, collaboration, and communication in a decentralized manner. But imagine piling on all of the other conventional elements, intelligence agencies and allied forces across the globe trying to work towards a single mission. But was that single mission understood clearly by all? Did it mean different things to different people? Was the “what” clearly defined but the “how” more loosely defined by different units? Of course, military operations can have some severe consequences, but the example serves the purpose. “Too many chefs syndrome.” Coalition forces working to quell insurgencies and defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq, for example, had disjointed visions for how to accomplish this lofty goal. Why? In large part due to a vague vision, bureaucracies and organizational silos.

The military came to the conclusion that the traditional hierarchical structures, cross-branch sub-cultures and  sharing methods were fighting against us. Senior leaders finally realized that the military in general and various task forces at the tip of the spear had to transform into modern twenty-first-century organizations that were aligned behind a single narrative for the vision.

Silos and Their Effect on Vertical and Horizontal Alignment

In his article, Gleeson stated that internal vertical alignment as to the mission at hand could be fine while horizontal alignment across silos is lacking. And sometimes, silos exist both vertically and horizontally at the same time. This is not to say that the solution is to move completely away from traditional hierarchies and build only open networks and teams without structures and resources to support them – that could also be catastrophic in many organizations.

But a bit of both can bring stability and collaboration at the same time. In this environment, communication moves more quickly, learning increases, lessons can be applied across departments and strategies align to support a single vision.

How to improve?

Organizations that will succeed in this more volatile and complex business environment have to not only develop and regularly communicated an aligned vision – and the specific narrative to support it – but also answer the questions:

  • “What behaviors and mindsets need to change in order to accomplish this goal?”
  • “What barriers need to be broken down to accomplish this change?”

More meaningful relationship-building outside of the silos will gradually dilute the strength of those barriers (tribalism). This also improves trust and willingness to regularly share important information. Everyone is working towards a common goal, and all understand their roles and the part they play in the overall goal.

5 steps to encourage a unified front and open up the lines for communicating a powerful vision for change.

  1. Create a Unified Vision.

Silos – and the turf wars can devastate organizations. It is imperative that the leadership team agrees to a common and unified vision for the organization. There must be a large level of executive buy-in and core understanding of the company’s long-term goals, department objectives, and key initiatives within the leadership team prior to passing it down to the teams. A unified leadership team will encourage trust, create empowerment, and break managers out of the “my department” mentality and into the “our organization” mentality. And the leaders must consistent with all of their behaviors first before others will follow.

  1. Work Towards Achieving A Common Goal.

Many times, there are multiple tactical goals and objectives identified, but it is up to the Leadership team to remain on task and define the single, qualitative focus that is shared among them as the top priority.

It is also important that all employees are aware of this objective and understand how they can make an impact individually.It is recognizing the interconnections between parts of a system and synthesizing them into a unified view.

  1. Motivate and Incentivize.

What really defines a successful manager is one who is able to identify what key components motivate each of their employees and how to communicate this effectively to a wide range of audiences. Once the common goal has been identified, each member of the management team must incentivize their employees accordingly.

  1. Execute and Measure.

The leadership team must establish a time frame to complete the common goal, benchmarks for success and delegate specific tasks and objectives to other members of the management team, and down to frontline troops.

Empowerment and accountability are key.

  1. Collaborate and Create.

There are a few key factors in creating a thriving and productive team; knowledge, collaboration, creativity, and confidence. Without these four basic factors, any team is destined to fail.

Management should  foster cross-departmental interaction. The exchange of knowledge and the collaboration that will inevitably take place between teams is absolutely priceless.

Breaking down the silos is not an easy task for any organization whether it be military, business or other; however, the avoidance of these issues will be more detrimental to the employees and ultimately the overall ability to unite by any transformation effort.

There is nothing more powerful in any organization than having all employees rowing fiercely in the same direction.

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