Despite how popular agile methodology has gotten within software development in the last two decades, many attempts to put it into practice have failed.
Experience shows that one of the possible reasons for this could be the lack of transparency and communication between different teams and departments within an organization. Each of the departments works for itself and communication between them is nonexistent, which impedes the working processes.
In such a situation, workers are so bogged down in everyday tasks that they lose sight of the bigger picture and don’t even see themselves as playing a significant role in the whole of the company. Sometimes they can have no idea if the information they have is of any significance for other departments at all.
This type of behavior and thinking has been termed as a silo or bunker mentality. The word “silo” was first used to describe organizational structures by Phil S. Ensor, who used the functional silo syndrome to explain so-called structural failures in organizations.
Put simply, a silo mentality reflects a limited communication model.
Whatever the specific reasons for the problem, its roots can typically be traced to the leadership strategies within the given company.
The lack of interdepartmental communication can seriously damage workflow since important information is not freely shared within the organization. This can, for example, lead to certain teams or departments working with incorrect or outdated information despite that information being known to others in the organization. Combined with other operational trip-ups, issues stemming from a silo mentality can also complicate the ways in which companies deliver value to their clients and are detrimental to profitability.
Inversely, managers in successful companies encourage the free flow of information between departments, so that all parts of the organization can function effectively.
A silo mentality inevitably impacts corporate culture negatively, especially once employees become aware of the problem and are unable to fix it.
How to Overcome Silo Mentality
Attitudes are hard to change, especially when self-interest is at stake. However, it can be said that the keys to breaking out of a silo mentality are communication and collaboration.
When put in an environment where traditional boundaries between teams, business functions, and sectors intersect, people tend to be more creative.
Here’s a few steps you can take to the improve flexibility of work processes and establish a functional agile model as counterpart to a silo mentality:
Create and communicate a unified vision that’s shared across departments to encourage mutual information sharing.
Hold events such as training seminars that allow employees to get to know each other.
Consider changing the employee compensation structure to reflect and encourage the contribution of each team (department) to incentivize achieving company goals as a whole.
Encourage personal responsibility in cooperation. Leaders throughout the organization can motivate employees to find their own ways to connect with others in the business.
o Effective collaboration can translate commercial benefits for the company. By having different people with different personal and professional backgrounds in the same room (physical or virtual), you are more likely to generate healthy conflict, identify different ways of thinking and innovate.
o In addition, cross-departmental collaboration provides important career growth opportunities for individuals. The more one knows about different areas of the company and how they work together, the better prepared they would be for future leadership roles.
If you suspect that a silo mentality may be the root problem in your team's collaboration and communication processes, arm yourself with the right set of tools for your organization.
Here are some digital solutions that can be used to identify patterns within the company and take steps to improve the work process:
Agility indicator - A digital solution that can identify the silo mentality by analyzing the flow of information and communication throughout the organization and where obstacles arise.
Company specific 360 Feedback - Using this tool, leaders can take appropriate measures to remove roadblocks and foster better communication and collaboration.
Values indicator - With this digital product you can analyze the extent to which the values of the organization are reflected in the work process and the behavior of the employees. Strong shared values are key to combating the silo mentality, as are clearly defined common goals.