5 ways to smash the silo mentality with digital transformation

Matt Geary in Growth hacking on 22nd of Nov 2018
Breaking The Silo Mentality

Breaking The Silo Mentality

What is silo mentality?

Silo mentality is when certain departments or teams aren't sharing information with others within a company. This can happen due to company culture, internal competition or organizational problems. It's a business phenomenon that's bad for business — it reduces efficiency, productivity and employee morale.

Silo seems like one of those trendy terms heard around the boardroom table but it's been around for over 30 years, and it looks like more than just a trend.

The source of silo mentality

Departmental silos are generally experienced by companies that are growing or who are already very large. It not attributable to any single conscious decision. Nobody is saying, "let's divide and conquer this bad boy" at team meetings.

Rather, silo mentality is something that generally trickles down from executive leaders and management. The difficult part is that from the top, it can be hard for the individual leaders to see what's happening within their organization. Many will dismiss the lack of cross-departmental solutions as symptomatic of employees individually, rather than as a holistic organizational problem.

These five steps are designed to help forge a realistic path to smashing organizational silos in your company.

1.  Unify the company vision

A unified vision will propel everyone in the same direction with a shared understanding of ideas and goals. It's critical that the leadership team come together to agree on a unified vision for everyone to follow.

When executive teams cooperate across key objectives, departmental goals, this cooperation trickles into every other part of the company. A unified leadership team means a unified company that breaks away from the "my department" mentality and opens up the "my organization" mentality.

Focus on how your organization can please its customers, rather than itself. A well-crafted customer journey map helps achieve a unified vision by aligning the company under one important goal — customer satisfaction. CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos recently attested to the importance of the customer journey in relation to organizational integrity: “If we start to focus on ourselves instead of focusing on our customers, that will be the beginning of the end."

2.  Work towards common goals

It's very normal for teams to have tactical goals and objectives. It's not normal for teams to focus on these objectives as the "be-all and end-all" of their roles. When leadership has established their unified vision, it's important that the organization can pinpoint a set of common goals that everyone can work towards

The difference between having a company goal and a company vision is that the vision is qualitative and the goal is quantitative. Having a vision is great, but your team needs measurable goals to benchmark their efforts against.

Create common goals that every team can work towards and measure. View each team as a critical part of a system, and synthesize their outcomes into a singular set of company goals. Even if each team has different metrics, those metrics should contribute to an overall organizational target.

Once teams have common goals, they can more effectively collaborate to accomplish them.

3.  Motivate and Incentivize

If your company has successfully established a unified vision and a set of goals then congratulations. You've smashed half the silo. The final parts encompass execution and implementation of your unified journey.

Motivation is a key element here, but the way to use it varies across teams and individuals. The top 1% of managers are the ones who can not only make employees feel rewarded but also recognized within their industry or organization. This is where the common goals come in — they're a great benchmark to encourage employees to hit, which therefore helps the company to achieve its overall vision.

For example, your company may have a vision to design the best product on the market. The company goal could be to improve the quality of the product through exceeding industry expectations (these expectations could be your KPIs).

Employee incentives would then help to maximize this result. Within a certain timeframe, product developers could be incentivized to iron out bugs within the product. Marketing teams could be incentivized to reduce churn through personalized retention strategies. Customer success teams could also receive incentives for achieving high NPS. Through all these incentives, avoid the: "it's not my job" attitude and focus on the overall company vision and goals.

4.  Measure

Stay on top of your defined goals and measure outcomes accurately. Keep your teams accountable to their goals — it's not uncommon to need a large amount of energy to keep company momentum going.

Encourage reports and metrics to be held together within and outside of teams. Congratulate your team and each other when common goals are acheived. For the above three steps to work properly, teams need to share a benchmark for success.

5.  Freely exchange information

The exchange of knowledge is absolutely priceless. There's no way a company can succeed if it withholds information from itself. Management should encourage and foster information sharing across departments — whether it's customer data, insights,  metrics or simply casual conversations.

Doing so will give employees the confidence to smash objectives and collaborate with each other. You'll also see better ideas and creative power through collaboration and conversations.

However, be wary of exceedingly long or frequent meetings — nothing will put people to sleep faster. Instead, encourage interdepartmental communication through tools like Slack or Autopilot's Annotate and Collaborate feature.

There’s nothing better for your company than to see all your staff pushing towards the same goals.

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