Breaking organizational silos & promoting teamwork

Silos are counterproductive. Yet, even in this digital age, most of the functions in an organization have a silo mentality deeply rooted in them. From cliché back and forth between Sales and Credit functions over customer file being incomplete to arguments between Technology and Product over a requirement; the silo saga keeps growing.

There are countless articles available on breaking silos, including agile ways of working. Not discounting them, here are three simple practices I have found to be effective:

Sharing a meal (without shop talk): Silos are broken when there is collaboration, collaboration comes with trust and people trust each other when they get to know each other; when they talk about themselves, their families, their ambitions, and their fears. The best way to open up and have these conversations is over a meal or a simple cup of coffee. It is scientifically proven that food has the power to bring together people. So, if you want to build team collaboration, a good way to start is by taking the team out for a meal or coffee. While having such an outing, avoid shop talk. Bon Appetite!

Promoting healthy debates: For a team to collaboratively work towards a singular goal, commitment is required. Commitment comes through consensus (either agree or agree to disagree) and the consensus is built through passionate & healthy debates. Sometimes, as leaders, we know the right answers. However, it’s important to let the teams debate and arrive at those right answers, than the leaders forcing it on them. This helps drive accountabilities for achieving the goal. Debates can also often result in out-of-the-box thinking and provide better solutions to deadlocks.

Over-communicate: Collaboration and commitment fail when there is a lack of communication. For example, if a Project Manager, who attends the Project Steering Committee, fails to communicate the decisions of the SteerCo to the team members; no matter how collaborative or committed the team is, they will never deliver the desired outcomes. Absence of communication results in FUD(Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt) and amplified grapevines. If you are a leader, please make it a point to over - communicate. This can be through a 15-minute daily face-to-face huddle or a simple conference call with your team. Speak directly to the teams as much as possible, then using emails.

The above three techniques are easy to implement and the outcomes of these have always been positive. I have noticed that following these techniques often results in teams themselves organically developing a unified vision and clear roles & responsibilities.

Ending this article with a quote from the book Five Dysfunctions of a Team:

“Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”