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Silo mentality: breaking down the barriers undermining collaboration

A team’s ability to learn together and move forward towards a common vision of the future is fundamental to an organisation’s ability to survive, let alone thrive.

Silo mentality: breaking down the barriers undermining collaboration

How well your team shares knowledge, capabilities and resources unquestionably influences the performance of your business. Whether they learn together and move forward toward a common vision of the future is fundamental to your organisation’s ability to survive, let alone thrive.

Reflect for a moment on these key indicators of a collaborative team and business environment:

  • Do people across your business work together to achieve your collective goals?
  • Do managers work with one another to identify priorities and coordinate their team’s efforts?
  • Do team members think about the consequences of their actions on staff in other areas of your business?
  • Where does your organisation’s culture sit on a spectrum between being collaborative and silo driven?

If you are struggling in any of these key areas, outlined below are six steps you need to take to break down silos and better leverage the potential of your team.

  1. Influence collaboration and ownership from the top

    The truth is unless the CEO and senior business leaders assume ownership for building a collaborative organisation, it simply won’t happen. The first order priority is often getting the executive to be an effective team and to understand their responsibility in setting a positive example of unity and collaboration. Leaders at all levels of an organisation must understand how they can break down silos and fully leverage collective contributions.

  2. Drive a one-team, one-business culture

    It is critical to manage mindset as silos are created by taking and accepting an individualistic viewpoint. You must set clear expectations by defining what it means within your organisation to behave collaboratively and with a spirit of cooperation. Work with leaders and team members to articulate what successful behaviours look like and promote consistent understanding across the business.

    Breaking down silos means holding people accountable for their behaviour. This is done by rewarding and recognising positive behaviours and immediately addressing cultural misalignment. Consistency is key, so hold everyone equally accountable and never allow a ‘high performing’ individual to get away with uncooperative behaviour.

  3. Encourage cross-function working

    Project teams, internal appointments and secondment opportunities that extend across business units create opportunity to develop relationships, awareness of one another’s challenges and broader individual and team capabilities.

  4. Recruit carefully

    Every aspect of your culture should be non-negotiable selection criteria when hiring new staff. To build a collaborative culture, hire people who have a collective mindset and sincere desire to be a part of a successful team. Candidates with an unhealthy ego or overinflated view of their own importance will impact detrimentally on culture.

  5. Build relationship skills

    Support your team to build and maintain great relationships. Grow your team’s ability to engage in honest and yet respectful conversations and you will go a long way toward enabling collaboration.

  6. Address conflict

    Make it a baseline expectation that everyone take responsibility to work in the spirit of cooperation and for the impact they have on other people. Take early and decisive steps to address conflict that people are unable to work through on their own. Ensure that any ‘captain’s calls’ are taken with a whole of company view.

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