How to Break Down Silos and Work More Collaboratively as a Business

Author: Tyler Cox

It's only natural that members of an organization feel that their department is the most important. The sales team brings in the revenue that fuels the bottom line. The accounting department processes the invoices that get the money from those sales in the bank. HR takes care of the benefits that help keep the entire team healthy and happy. Each team plays a vital role.


But while a bit of pride in the job you do can be a good thing, taken too far, it can be damaging. There's a tendency in organizations for departments to work in silos, with little regard for the needs of other departments. There's a constant battle for resources, and each department undergoes a struggle to outshine the others. Ultimately, those departments tend to shut off from the others, and even simple requests for information between departments can result in a needless turf war.


So, how can organizations ensure departments work together for the common good?


Here are a few tips for breaking down silos and fostering collaboration across teams.


1. Create company-wide goals, and ensure everyone is aware of what they are

Although departments often have their own specific goals, they're frequently set without regard to the organization's goals as a whole. Correcting that starts at the top. Upper-level management should clearly outline goals for the organization and communicate those goals to everyone in the company. From there, and individual departments make their own goals keeping in mind how they will contribute to achieving the company's goals.


2. Leverage technology to foster communication

One of the issues that can contribute to the creation of silos is the fact that different departments are often located on different floors of the company office building, in different buildings on the corporate campus, or even in different cities. Fortunately, there are technical tools that can help foster communication between departments, such as Yamaha UC's video conference systems and conference phones. These tools make it easy for departments to communicate with each other no matter where they may be located.


3. Measure and share results

Building on the subject of technological communication tools, hold regular meetings where departments can report progress towards their own goals and learn how that progress contributes to the achievement of the company-wide goals. If a team is struggling because of a lack of cooperation from another department, that might be an opportunity to hash out those concerns. And if a team is overwhelmed, there might be a chance to redistribute the workload.


4. Periodically rotate team members through departments

That goes back to the old "walk a mile in my shoes" adage. During times when business is slow, have staff cross-train in other departments. Not only does that allow workers to see what it's like on the other side of the fence, but it also helps create a versatility among staff that adds to each worker's skill set and makes them more valuable.


5. Reward achievement

Periodically update the entire staff on progress towards company-wide goals, recognizing the achievements of each team and how their efforts contributed to the overall objectives. If possible, hold those updates in face-to-face settings such as a company awards dinner, weekend picnic, or holiday party.


When the various departments work together, the entire business benefits. Keeping the whole organization headed in the same direction will help break down silos while at the same time improving results.