I interface with organizations who have every intention of being collaborative. However, their collective actions tell a very different story. They envision functioning as a seamless, multi-functional operation — working in concert to satisfy clients, and organizational goals. But in reality, this is quite difficult to accomplish.
Unfortunately there are obvious, telling signs that they have missed the mark.
By and large, silos develop within organizations to protect valued resources. This is often fear-based — and building these proverbial “walls” can become the kiss of death for any organization that expects to remain agile. We’d all like to think of our organizations as impervious to this condition. However, it is easy to slip into “protective mode”. In some cases, we’ve acquiesced into a “silo-ed” state without recognizing the malaise.
Here are a few signs:
- Lack of a constructive cross-functional conversation. Let’s be honest — there really isn’t a lot of communication going on cross-functionally. Your customer/client process doesn’t really dovetail with other functional groups. Sadly, no one seems to be alarmed that this integral step is absent.
- Customers are no longer central to the conversation. Your teams are so busy putting out fires and keeping up with the demands, that your clients are no longer central. When the “tail” (the acute issues) starts wagging the dog (being long-term smart), it’s time to slow down and take another look.
- You are unsure what other functions are really doing. Processes and procedures can evolve quickly. You can lose site of the roles that others play in the larger scheme. As result, your team really doesn’t have a grasp on how to effectively interface with other parts of the business.
- Rampant “blame-storming”. Joint ownership of processes and procedures is non-existent. If issues seem to be more like “hot potatoes of blame” than a “call to arms” to improve — take this an ominous warning. If everyone seems to point a finger, yet no one is venturing to say “we take responsibility”, you may have a real problem.
- Separate cultural identities. If each functional group is more akin to an independent “pop up” shop, take note. You might blame each other for the current problems or snafus— but it’s really the lack of shared vision that’s the offender. Time to re-group and get on the same page.
- Things are portrayed as a “zero sum” game. If your group seems to feel that if they “give up” responsibility of tasks (even if tasks are best moved to another team), your organizational presence would be minimized. Scope of work should be assigned to the group best able to deliver the end-product of the highest quality.
- You’ve given up trying to become a better organization. Many siloed organizations aren’t happy with the status quo — yet their employees feel efforts to change the dynamic would be fruitless. If you are so frustrated that you feel things cannot be improved, this is a telling sign that your group needs help.
Have you seen this operating in your organization? What did you do?
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist who starts conversations about work and organizations. She also writes at LinkedIn.