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Working in Silos? 5 Steps to Break the Cycle

Find out how to overcome organizational silos in your business and how using a tool like Motion is a step in the right direction.

Motion Blog
at Motion
Nov 15, 2023
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Organizational silos can be detrimental to business success. They prevent teams from working efficiently, hinder progress, and create tension between departments.

But fortunately, there are ways to dismantle the silo mentality and get your team working as a single, well-oiled machine. With the right processes, technology, and company culture, you can say goodbye to silos for good.

To get you started on the right foot, we’ve outlined five ways to overcome these challenges and prevent them from happening again. But first, let’s talk about the basics.

What are organizational silos?

An organizational silo occurs when different team members, teams, or departments act as separate entities.

Think about a project team as an example. Suppose this team is filled with people from various departments, all with different roles in the business. To complete the project successfully, these different departments need to communicate effectively. But instead, they begin working independently of each other, and organizational silos start to form as a result.

So, what does this mean for the project?

Teams stop communicating, so they’re not aware of what others involved in the project are doing, how they’re progressing, and whether there are any challenges or roadblocks in their way. This can result in duplicate work, missed deadlines, or budget mishaps, ultimately delaying the project’s end date or even impacting the project deliverables.

Team of people struggling to collaborate

This is why it’s so important for businesses to remove silos and collaborate as effectively as possible. Preventing communication silos gives you a better chance of delivering top-quality work on time and within budget.

What happens when teams work in silos?

There’s a reason 80% of managers say reducing silos is a top priority for their organization. The reality is that when silos start to form, a lot of issues can emerge, including the following:

  • Lack of effective communication. When teams start working independently of each other, communication can take a hit. People don’t keep in touch, don’t share updates, and struggle to understand what other teams are working on. This can cause problems in the long run, such as poor-quality work, missed deadlines, and duplicated tasks.
  • Inefficient processes. A lack of communication and cohesion can prevent processes from working effectively. For example, tasks might not move through the workflow in the correct order if certain teams don’t know how other teams are progressing with their work.
  • Ineffective resource allocation. The silo mentality makes it difficult for business leaders and senior managers to effectively allocate resources. Think about it — if there’s no clear picture of how work is progressing across teams, it’s pretty hard to know where to allocate resources to get the best results.

Breaking down silos: How to overcome the silo effect in your business

Now that we know what silos are and how they work, let’s take a look at how to dismantle them in your organization.

1. Create a culture of collaboration

A culture of collaboration involves creating a work environment that gives people the confidence and space to communicate openly and honestly.

With this type of corporate culture, team members are more likely to keep in touch and maintain open lines of communication throughout a project — both of which reduce the chances of silos forming.

‎Here are some ways you can create a more collaborative culture:

  • Encourage open communication. Let everyone know that you want them to communicate openly and honestly with each other. You can do this by being transparent with all employees and leading by example. For instance, host regular check-ins and updates to allow everyone on a team to discuss progress, ask questions, and overcome obstacles.
  • Help team members build relationships. One of the causes of communication silos is a lack of relationships between employees from different departments. To break down these barriers, host icebreakers or run team events that encourage people to mingle and develop connections.
  • Create a shared vision. To get everyone on the same page, share the vision for the business, project, or workflow with all relevant parties (you can do this during a kickoff meeting). Everyone will have a clear understanding of the vision and be able to work together to make the common goal become a reality.

2. Improve cross-functional communication

When cross-functional teams keep in touch, silos are less likely to appear. Plus, you can save up to 12 hours a week by improving cross-functional collaboration and alignment.

Take a look at some of the ways you can improve cross-departmental collaboration:

  • Establish clear communication channels. Make it easy for cross-functional teams to keep in touch by establishing clear, easy-to-use communication channels. Something like Slack can be a good idea, as it’s also incredibly simple to use. The easier it is, the more likely people are to use it.
  • Define roles and responsibilities. Establish who’s responsible for certain tasks, queries, and topics. This will make it easier for team members to know who’s in charge of certain areas and who they can reach out to with any questions or concerns.
  • Assign cross-functional leaders. Keep your cross-functional teams in check by assigning leaders to manage the fray. These leaders can be responsible for maintaining communication channels, making sure employees know who to contact in specific scenarios, and hosting regular check-ins.

3. Use asynchronous communication

Asynchronous communication (also known as async communication) is any communication that doesn’t require a response in real time. Examples include sending emails or voice notes and sharing a recorded video.

Async communication allows workers the flexibility to respond to messages when it suits them. However, for it to work, you need to find platforms that fit your business.

Illustration of someone messaging using a mobile phone

‎Some companies prefer email, for instance, while others like instant messaging. A good way to find out what works is to try out a few different options.

You can also ask employees to test different platforms and gather feedback to see what they prefer. This will help you choose a communication tool that everyone’s on board with and has all the features you need to improve collaboration and reduce the silo mentality.

4. Implement efficient processes

Efficient processes play a vital role in reducing silos.

Think about a cross-functional project team as an example. If there aren’t clear processes to help ensure tasks move smoothly through the workflow, it’s unlikely that the team will deliver the required outcomes in the necessary timeframe.

Business leaders say implementing more efficient processes leads to stronger employee engagement, more accurate info, easier decision-making, and better-aligned teams.

Survey results showing benefits of better processes

‎Here are a couple of ways you can create fool-proof processes that minimize communication silos:

  • Review the company’s current processes. Look at your existing processes to identify areas for improvement. Are there any consistent bottlenecks? Are there gaps that prevent processes from running smoothly?

Finding and fixing these issues will help you run smoother processes and minimize silos.

  • Get input from team members. Talk to your colleagues and employees about your processes since, chances are, they’ll have first-hand experience of how those processes can be improved. They may even have suggestions for implementing entirely new processes, streamlining your operations and keeping silos at bay as a result.

5. Use collaborative tools and technologies

Collaborative tools are a great way to minimize silos and encourage teams to work together. Whether you use project management platforms, work management tools, or something else entirely, find technology that supports your collaborative efforts. If you do, you’ll be in a much better position to reduce departmental silos.

Here are some features to look out for when searching for effective collaboration tools for your business:

  • Shareable calendar. Allow team members to share schedules to see what others in their group are working on. This helps teams understand how work is progressing in other departments without having to reach out for updates.

Share calendars with Motion
  • Meeting scheduler. A platform that makes it quick and easy to schedule meetings is a useful tool for reducing the silo mindset. Why? Because regular meetings and check-ins are great ways to improve communication and decrease silos.

Take a look at Motion as an example. With our Meeting Assistant, you can schedule meetings in a matter of clicks, making it easy to keep in touch with your colleagues.

  • Task changelog. Give employees access to real-time updates on tasks with a task changelog. That way, they can click on specific tasks to see exactly how they are progressing.

Use Motion to remove barriers and improve collaboration

Removing silos and improving communication is beneficial for teams in any business, as it improves collaboration, reduces unnecessary work, and helps ensure everyone is working as productively and efficiently as possible.

Having the right software in place can help you reduce communication silos and bring your team together. An online work management tool like Motion can improve your team’s communication by letting them share their calendars, add notes to tasks, and access project information in real time.

Sign up for a free trial today!

Motion Blog
Written by Motion Blog