I always hear people talk about some staff working on their own and do not mix around, do not share ideas about their job and worse still they do not care about what others are doing around them. I see these people so focus on their own jobs and it is often difficult to interact with them especially in getting some important information. I am neither the specialist nor the management expert but my experience proved useful in many cases involving human relation. I have worked for 3 decades in several small institutions and big organisations and yet this attitude of working in silos still prevails beyond the boundary of time. I am particularly interested to remind those who are reluctant to change, that their negative attitude has a serious consequent towards organisational development.
I prefer to tag these people as stubborn and egoistic and they deserve to get some good lectures from the management gurus like Edward de Bono and Robert Heller to realign their brains and the way they think. I personally would like to send them to attend Team Building courses so that they appreciate what team work is all about. Whether they like it or not, the exposure helps to do some brain washing and hence makes it easier to tear down their ego to the benefit of the entire organisation. The fall of Berlin Wall on 11th and 12th November 1989 is a classic example, not only it united the East and West Germans but most importantly it has taken Germany into becoming a stronger and united nation.
If you travel to agro- based countries, you will find the silos are built by the industries to store grain. In more developed countries, silos are used for storage of coal, cement, sawdust and even sensitive materials like ammunitions and missiles. Silos are structures – tall, narrow buildings with no windows and some are even airtight. Normally the stand alone structures are built next to each other. Relate the silo construction with departments or division within your organisation. If there is a barrier in communication and lack of common goals between staff and department in the organisation, then there is a ‘silo effect’. When people compartmentalized themselves, there is the likelihood of barrier to information sharing resulting in poor management of knowledge, poor execution of best work practices and the biggest culprit of all which I hate most is the work politics and the territorialism. This is the phenomena of silo effect.
You can easily read the attitude of people working in silo. The unit head, managers and staff will form a unit by themselves and you can see they are not cooperative with other functional units. More often they try to be their own champion and work in isolation. There will be a lot of distress and discontentment and disconnection between functional managers. Clearly, there will be poor communications, poor work integration, and duplication of work because they don’t share, internal competition, lack of synergy, short-term goals and solutions as well as poor decision-making.
Breaking through the silo boundaries is critical for organizational success. That’s why everyone has to understand the company mission and vision. The CEOs gives the direction but the functional managers or the departmental heads must take the lead. They cannot sit at their laurels, must be fair and neutral, and must not discriminate against skin colour or race.
To retain staff interest and loyalty, the company must adopt transparency of information. Company’s business strategy, its direction and its financial position must be communicated at least once a year. Employees need to know how the company performs, its financial stability and the stakeholders expectation.
When collaboration amongst its employees is severed, they will be left with less or no involvement in team work, lack of empowerment and accountability as such they will be entangled in a web of silos and consequently become the victim of the silo effect.
When employees work in silos, they tend to create their own processes to get the job done without realising that they generally take more time and resources. They might not even realise that they have internal problems and miss a lot of opportunities which subsequently increase the operating costs. Working in silo is seen as a bad practice. It gives a bad impression to the customers and affects their satisfaction. “68 per cent of customers quit because of an attitude of indifference towards them by some employees”
How can we tear down the silos? How is this possible? The saying says “If there is a will there is a way”. The first things heads of department ought to do is by putting their message across correctly and assertively and close all communication gaps. Each of them must know their functions and responsibilities. Make them understand their own roles and jobs and the job and roles of others. This will definitely make them happy and consequently they will be able to make customers feel delighted.
Japanese firms are very good in managing the welfare and emotions of the employees. Employees come first. Once employees are happy in their jobs, the customers are well taken care off. Make it a point to reward all positive and cooperative behaviour regardless of rank and position to encourage openness and removal of the communication barrier. A positive and conducive environment makes staff feel at ease and encourage them to contribute ideas. Creative and innovative ideas can increase efficiencies and effectiveness.
Some companies open up opportunities for employees to experience cross functional initiatives. Staff from different backgrounds may get to know the work done by other employees in different teams in the organisation. Here the head of the HR may want to play his or her role as the expert interpersonal communicator. Under such circumstances, a new work culture or a change in work culture may be necessary .The company must also provide some space for employees to mix around and know each other better by holding an annual retreat. This is another salient and joyous way of breaking the communication barrier and the silos.
Silos are prisons and ‘prisoners’ kept inside have been stripped off their freedom. To get a true freedom, you must get yourself released or out of them. Let me ask you this question again. Are you working in silos? No? Whatever it is, I would suggest that you open up your mind, expand your thinking horizon and possibly stretch and explore your true potential and your intelligence. Do this for your own benefit and that of your organisation. On the other hand, if you are working in silo, it’s time to tear it down and set yourself free.
William Ward says “Men never plan to be failures; they simply fail to plan to be successful”. “ A good managers one who gets maximum from his equipment . A better manager is one who gets maximum from business. An even better manager is one who manages his business. And a far better manager is one who plants seeds of thinking in the minds of his men”.