Try this if you’re working in silos

| 17 September 2021

Does your organisation or parts of it feel siloed?

Has this got worse – or better – during the months of WFH?

If so, you can start to change it – or at least take responsibility for the bits that you can influence and change.

Silos are most often created when we only see our needs and perspectives or the purpose and priorities of the organisation are not clear or they’re in conflict.

I often see ‘silo mentality’ in leaders who are hugely loyal to and want the best for their teams so they’re blind to the bigger picture. A kind of ‘we’re right and you’re wrong’ mentality kicks in.

Their intention is often positive but the impact it has is not.

Years ago I worked in a siloed organisation – one part of it working to ‘pile it high, sell it cheap’ and the other on providing a quality, exciting, affordable experience for our customers.

Sometimes we were able to do both and it worked brilliantly

But much of the time we didn’t.

And as a business we did some pretty poor things to save money – we definitely wouldn’t get away with them now.

As leaders we can role model breaking down the silos, not creating them or making them taller.

The more we whinge and complain without trying to influence change, the less we’re demonstrating leadership.

We’re simply role modelling that it’s okay to whinge and complain and our teams will take their cue from us.

So what to do?

Start from where you are with your first step.

Set up a conversation with your counterpart from another silo (sorry team).

Set the intention for building a stronger working relationship together (a future focus).

Ground rules:

No blaming or justifying or points scoring

The focus is on creating a better working relationship from today

‘First seek to understand’.

Equality of speaking and listening.

Hold the bigger picture in mind (which includes other stakeholders, customers, patients and whoever else we serve – directly or indirectly)

These questions will help drive the conversation.

  • How does my role work with your role?
  • What are we both trying to achieve and for whom?
  • What would you like me to know about your current challenges/opportunities?
  • What resources/ideas can we share?
  • Are there any gaps/overlaps in what we do?
  • What ideas can we take forward together?
  • What are our collective priorities?
  • What can we do now?

When you start to break down some silos, everybody wins.

And your team will thank you.

Word of caution: If your working relationships with the other person/team member are extremely dysfunctional or long running, you may need some outside support such as mediation.

P.S. If this is resonating, the my next article on Managing Conflict in Virtual Teams may also be of interest to you.