An organisation's framework often segregates responsibilities into distinct divisions, departments, and teams to streamline routine operations. However, this structural clarity can occasionally present itself as a double-edged sword. The mechanism to facilitate productivity can inadvertently encourage redundancy, stunt innovation, and risk undermining organisational objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs). The time, therefore, may be ripe to dismantle these invisible walls. This piece will shed light on my perspective regarding the surmounting of operational silos.
The structural makeup of a business can be a boon until it becomes a bane. Then, the notion of organisational silos comes into play, a necessary evil often tainted by the complications they inadvertently cause.
Silos, though sometimes viewed negatively, serve an essential purpose. They provide a backbone of the organisation, splitting the company into distinct entities such as sales, technology, and finance. This arrangement fosters specialisation and expertise, creating pockets within the company where information, focus, and control ebb and flow vertically.
However, the same infrastructure can impede the lateral dissemination of information, focus, and control. For a company to function optimally, decisions must traverse these silos, promoting a collaborative approach.
The triad of challenges stemming from organisational silos include:
Silos are an organic byproduct of organisational structuring—each section of your enterprise answers to a manager whose purview is restricted to that particular segment. However, no fragment operates in isolation. Each relies on the others to execute its role, with the overall company success contingent upon seamless interplay amongst these units.
The structure of silos within a company is necessary to ensure accountability and responsibility are firmly anchored within each unit. This arrangement promotes a culture of autonomy and cultivates a sense of proprietorship, both pivotal in driving business outcomes. It then falls to the decision-makers to maintain a panoramic view of the organisation whilst departmental managers immerse themselves in the intricacies of their specific domain.
However, an unintended consequence of this structure is the emergence of 'tower vision'. Managers often find themselves solely focusing within their silos, scanning only up and down within their immediate purview, and failing to cast their gaze horizontally across the organisation. This narrow viewpoint restricts their awareness to the confines of their silo.
These managers may need to be more informed about developments in other business sectors and often require more understanding of how their actions reverberate across different units. Their decision-making process, as a result, predominantly caters to the interests of their silo.
This mindset may seem entirely rational. As a manager, it's natural for your attention and responsibilities to be concentrated within your department. The broader organisational scope may seem peripheral if only partially absent from your daily considerations. Consequently, when faced with decisions that ripple across multiple silos, your ingrained habit is to weigh the implications for your unit above others.
Just because a specific strategy seems reasonable to a manager operating within their silo, it doesn't necessarily mean that it embodies the best course of action, nor does it assure that it aligns with the broader interests of the organisation as a whole.
From an enterprise perspective, silos must operate cohesively, which is rarely the case. Issues surface when these silos fail to synchronise on aspects like information, vision, priorities, and knowledge and when managers work independently, adopting an entrepreneurial approach. Essentially, people are manoeuvring with a restricted 'tower vision'.
The ramifications of organisational silos are evident across all echelons of the company. Being part of a silo, every manager will likely experience frustration when their priorities clash with those from a different department.
Regrettably, these organisational silo barriers aren't confined to the corporate sphere. Customers too often witness and are adversely affected by these hindrances.
To disassemble organisational silos, the issues they breed need to be addressed effectively. It's an easy trap for managers and decision-makers to fall into, to believe that eradicating silos is the ultimate solution. However, the silos' structure is crucial in establishing organisational accountability and responsibility.
The key ingredients to foster a cross-silo work environment are cooperation, collaboration, and communication. These components form the bedrock of any successful professional relationship, but their significance is heightened in the bid to dismantle organisational silos.
Disrupting the organisational silo barrier is feasible when multiple silos collectively own control, focus, and knowledge. This approach dissolves the 'tower vision' and encourages viewing matters from fresh perspectives.
It's not about vindicating who's right or wrong. It's entirely plausible for silo managers to have diverse priorities and still believe they're acting in the company's best interest while primarily focusing on their silo's welfare.
It's quite natural for managers to exercise their given authority and responsibility. Yet, when a reprioritisation decision is made, effective communication and collaboration can facilitate a shift in perspective.
By innate instinct, individuals strive to excel within their respective roles. Being assigned a specific function or segment within a company often stirs the entrepreneurial spirit of a manager. Indeed, one doesn't ascend to the head of a silo without a healthy dose of competitiveness. Occasionally, managers may justify their lack of cooperation, arguing, 'I'm responsible for my domain, and my goal is to perform at my best within it.'
Silo heads typically possess an intense focus and are highly competitive. A productive approach to remove these barriers involves identifying instances of non-cooperation and the resulting fallout. Subsequently, safeguards should be implemented to prevent decision-making in isolation.
These questions may aid in understanding and transcending your company's organisational silos:
In which areas might increasing collaboration and relinquishing some autonomy prove more advantageous for your company than preserving individuality?
Explore the advantages of a silo-free organisation and strategies to dismantle silos.