4 Actions for Tearing Down Silos

Silos. Turf wars. Unhealthy competition. They’re present at some level in nearly every organization, regardless of their size. And they drive us crazy! They slow progress, prevent teamwork, and build distrust between leaders and teams, yet most of us have come to accept dealing with these roadblocks and frustrations as an unpleasant but necessary part of the job.

In reality, just because silos and turf wars exist doesn’t mean we can’t work to break down those barriers and begin working with, rather than against, other departments throughout our organizations. Here are four actions I’ve found that can help foster collaboration between teams and departments.

  1. Be willing to trust. In fact, be willing to trust first. Trust is built over time, yes, but initially one party must be willing to take the risk and trust the other leader or team in good faith. If trust is never present, a silent, underlying agenda exists for individuals and teams to protect and preserve themselves first, over and above what’s best for the organization.
  2. Protect your first team first. Your first team is your team of peers, not your team that you lead or that reports to you. When the leader feels like his first team is the team that reports to him, a silo as automatically formed.
  3. Share information. Closed communication and hoarding information are two of the quickest ways to build those barriers. Information isn’t power! Influence is power. Increase your influence by sharing the information others need to do the best job possible.
  4. Get everyone going in the same direction. Every department has its own goals and projects, but all those goals and projects should be pointing to the one thing everyone in the organization is working to accomplish. Make sure everyone in your organization knows your vision and that one thing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Juan Arroyo says:

    In case you get a chance to reply here’s a question.

    I have heard several times the concept of “your first team, is the team of peer leaders”, my question is more about situations in which a peer leader is “accusing” a member of my staff or a similar situation. It seems like I should “defend” my staff member 1st with the benefit of the doubt instead of taking my peers suggestions/feedback at face value.

    Any Thoughts on this one?

    LIke the story in the 5 dysfunctions of a team, I tend to build trust faster and easier with my team of direct reports.

    Thanks for all the great info posted.

    • Linda Sasser says:

      Of course you should always give your teammate the benefit of the doubt but we should do that with anyone including others not on our team. The peer that is accusing someone on your second team is most likely needing to point blame for one reason or another. Maybe it’s to protect his/her team, his/herself, an idea they are trying to see through or maybe trying to get the attention off themselves and on to another.

      You might want to take on the burden for what he is accusing. Get to the real issue vs who might have dropped the ball. Help him get the issue fixed no matter the team.

      I TOTALLY agree we do form stronger relationships with our silo team instead of our parallel peers. It’s very easy. We are with them more hours, we are striving for the same outcome (departmentally), we have a plan for how we work together by knowing each others strengths and weaknesses and we know how to jump in and serve when that teammate gets stressed or challenged.

      Now, take all those reasons and try to apply them with your parallel peer leaders.
      – spend more time with them, strive to form a relationship
      – find out what they are responsible for achieving and see how your two departments can work together. Try to find a way to serve their goals. Talk to your peer and see if you can come up with a common goal for the peer leadership group to strive for.
      – Share your strengths and weaknesses with each other and see how you can lean on each other when the going gets tough.
      – Last, and very difficult… realize your baby may be ugly. You may have some performance issues on your silo team. If so, own it. Fix it. You’ll not only be setting an example, you’ll develop a lot of respect amongst all teammates.

      Take the first step towards improving your first team.

      Thanks for following Juan and thanks for your question. I hope this helps!