Breaking organisational silos is hard — it pays to learn how to stop them forming

A recent Tweet by @JeppeHansgaard got me thinking about “organisational silos”.

Organisational silos are tight, sealed groups of workers that form within a business. These groups work really well as independent units, but find it difficult to work with other teams.

Organisational silos can form within businesses of any size, but will often go undetected. This is because in the short-term, they give off false positives. Team members who “click” with each other can produce awesome results! But this can mask the fact that they are not “clicking” with other teams, which can cause long-term problems for bigger business goals.

Breaking organisational silos can be very difficult, so it pays to learn how to prevent them from forming.

How an Organisational Silo Forms

Organisational silos can form practically anywhere within your business, and they can take many forms. For example, a silo could be a handful of people within a single team. It could also be an entire department. Or, if you have multiple locations, it could even be an entire building.

Organisational silos begin when employees develop more loyalty to their group than to their employer. This gradually builds, and members of the silo begin to distrust people on the “outside”. Teamwork relies on trust. Once the trust is gone, it gets very hard for people within the silo to work with people outside it.

This process can happen over a very long period of time. You might not spot a silo forming until it’s too late. It might look like people within a dormant silo are performing really well (because they are), until you need them to collaborate with another team on an important project. That’s when it starts to go downhill.

Because silos can go unnoticed for months, or sometimes years, it is important you do what you can to stop them forming.

How to Stop Organisational Silos Forming

Breaking organisational silos is possible, but difficult. These ideas will help you break existing silos, and prevent new ones from forming:

– Promote Common Organisational Goals. Different teams within your business will all have their own unique goals. For example, your sales team wants as many new sales as possible. Your customer service team wants great feedback from customers. If you only focus on these team-based goals, you are putting your company at risk of silo formation. You need to develop and promote a set of common organisational goals that all departments can work towards, regardless of their specific role.

– Create a Common Enemy. I already mentioned this when I wrote about building team spirit. The idea is to encourage your teams to try to beat a common enemy — like a competitor — instead of trying to compete against themselves. This is particularly important in businesses where teams within departments may feel the need to beat each other’s scores or results.

– Make Departments Flexible. Within the company I work for — People® — we try to encourage each other to learn about things not quite relevant to their specific role. We also encourage each other to ask for help from people who may not be on obvious speed dial for the issue we’re facing. For example, instead of practicing their sales pitches with each other, our sales people might grab hold of somebody in accounts. Or even one of our contractors! Encouraging employees to actively work with other people and departments is a really effective way to prevent silos from forming.

– More “Whole Workforce” Events. As a final tip, you should be getting your entire workforce together more often for social activities and fun. This can be tough if your workforce spans the globe, but it shouldn’t stop you trying.

Have you ever experienced issues with organisational silos? What did you do to break them?

Originally published at on November 3, 2016.

Originally published at