4 steps to reducing silo-working

browningyork Charity, Communication lessons, General communication, Organisational culture, University, Voluntary sector

Duplication. Inefficiency. Higher costs. Missed opportunities – for the organisation and for individuals. Bad feeling. Internal politics. Reputation issues. Loss of funding.

If any of these problems sound familiar, your organisation may be suffering from silo-working patterns.
Definition of silo working

There are a number of factors that can lead to this situation – such as conflicting priorities or leadership style – but, as always, bad communication is often a contributor. The good news is that improved, effective communication can also be a solution.

So what can you do?

Step 1
Chalkboard with word aim written on itReview how your organisation will be improved by getting rid of the silo mentality and having teams and departments that work together instead. What do you need to achieve by having them communicate better with each other? For example, you might reduce your costs by removing duplication or you might create a more pleasant working environment that motivates and inspires people. Be clear on what you are trying to achieve and why it matters.

Step 2
Team in a huddleIncrease your understanding of the teams, departments and individuals that are involved. It is very easy to make assumptions about what others are thinking and feeling, but we can often be wide of the mark. I once worked with 2 teams who were convinced that the others were interested only in finances and not in service-user care. Once we got the teams into the same room, they realised that care was at the heart of why they were trying to increase funding – it wasn’t simply about numbers on the bottom line.

The more you understand the interests, motivations and perceptions of the teams involved, the easier it will be to communicate in a way that links to their reality.

Step 3
Letter tiles that spell the word wordsBy combining your objectives in reducing the silo mentality and your understanding of the teams involved, you can be clearer about the messages that you need to share. For example, it may be that they need to share more about their own work or it may be that you need to talk more about how working together will benefit everybody. Content must demonstrate reasons for working together that are compelling to them.

Step 4
Paper, computer, people, communication channelsWork out which communication channels you have available to you. How might each work in providing an opportunity for your teams and departments to communicate with each other for the purpose you have identified? Some problems are easier to solve in facilitated face to face discussion, others can be made easier by clearer online content. Matching the channel you use to the purpose for which you are communicating will make it far more powerful and effective.

Sadly there are no quick fixes for silo-working, particularly if the mentality has built up over years, but with planning and persistence, you can change behaviours. If you would like help with reducing silos at your organisation, please get in touch.

Until next time

Other articles in this series:

Solving process problems through effective communication
Solving motivation & productivity problems
The perils of no communication
The link between fundraising and communication