Does your organization suffer from the impacts of working in silos? You know the barriers that develop between the functional departments of an organization? As an individual professional you can experience poor communication, conflicting directions, redundancy, and less than optimal decision making. Though much of the silo barriers can develop in the systems and data, what I’m concerned about is the human element. I want to focus on you.
the individual disrupts silos
It’s your responsibility. That’s right. Each individual in the organizations that does nothing to break down the silos is contributing to and reinforcing their existence. Even a virtual or mobile worker can have influence by their actions. That means I don’t want to hear you whine and complain about the silos if you are not willing to do something about it.
here’s why it’s up to you
- Change in organizations happens one person at a time.
- You can only change your own behavior.
- Your attitudes and emotions, however, are contagious.
- Your happiness at work is your responsibility.
here’s how to take action
Learn how you fit. Learn and understand how your piece of work fits into the business as a whole. For example if you produce a report each month that is distributed to others, go to the recipients and find out how they use that information. What is it’s value for them? What happens if there are errors or if the report is late? What other information would they benefit from receiving? All it takes is a phone call and good listening skills.
Be open to feedback. As you investigate what happens before and after your step in the process, you will likely receive feedback. Listen and discuss the ideas and work with those individuals to identify possible improvements.
Volunteer for a cross-functional team. Nothing helps to widen your perspective of the organization than working on a cross-functional team. Through the processes of the project you will be made aware of barriers, redundancies, and systems that do not support a collaborative work environment. If there are not cross functional teams in your organization, consider launching one with the purpose of mapping the organizations processes form end to end.
Engage a mentor in a different function. In addition to building relationships on teams and with individuals up and down stream from you in the processes, building professional relationships with an experienced professional is a great way to positively influence the culture. In a mentor relationship both individuals gain a new perspective. Selecting a mentor with influence increases your chances of influencing the culture at all levels of the organization.
the opposite of silos is collaboration
Change in organizations is accomplished one individual at a time. Silos are broken down one act at a time. Take responsibility for the silos in your organization. Look up from your desk. Truly understand what happens in the business process both before and after your step. Infect others with your curiosity and enthusiasm for understanding the business from end to end.
The opposite of working in silos is collaboration!
Nicely put Linda.
Years ago I worked in a silo, however my solution at the time was to simply move on and find a place where I could fit in more easily (aka don’t have to work at it). I’ve since learned from those experiences.
I think its important that people don’t give up when they don’t fit in right away. Your point on seeking a mentor and looking for the *how you fit in* is good advice.
Looking forward to reading the next post!
Thanks for sharing your experience, Joe. I have to say that there are times when leaving is the right thing to do. When I work with folks we always look at the options and it usually comes down to three: 1. stay and stop complaining; 2. do something to change where you are; or 3. leave the situation. There are a lot of factors that have to go into making that decision.
Thanks for stopping by!
Linda, love the message that breaking down silos is something only a person does. So many times we hope that somehow the “system” will right itself and eliminate that silo’d mentality, but it never happens without a few people to push it along the way.
I also really liked how you suggested a few ways to break down silos, and I would add another one: Food Events. Celebrate a Birthday, do a Potluck, Brown Bag Lunch to Discuss some work related topic – whatever fits for your environment. People bond over food, and it is an easy way to invite someone from another group and develop inroads for better communication in the future. Has really worked for me in the past.
Liked the tagline at the end too.
I have to say that the food events are always a great way to help people relax and see each other for the individuals that they are and not their title or role. I wonder how this could translate in a virtual environment? Food for thought 😉