Is your organisation working in silos? Copyright: antonioguillem / 123RF Stock Photo










Having a silo mentality is one of the biggest contributors to poor productivity there is for organisations. It usually leads to resources being wasted, a lack of innovation and employee engagement dropping.

Here’s how defines a silo mentality: ‘a mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. This type of mentality will reduce efficiency in the overall operation, reduce morale, and may contribute to the demise of a productive company culture.’

In brief, what this means is departments within organisations don’t trust each other and keep things to themselves. There’s no collaboration, and teams who should be working towards the same goal start pulling against each other. There can only ever be one outcome: a ‘them and us’, or ‘divide and conquer’ outlook and culture.

The signs your organisation is starting to develop this destructive silo culture start off small (things are probably pretty far down the line if you’ve already noticed). There’ll be duplicated, wasted work, or occasions where no-one does the work because they thought another team was doing it, a lack of focus on the bigger goals, limited teamwork, and a fear of questioning processes – even if people know they’re not the best way to do things.

Silos develop for lots of reasons, usually without you noticing. Sometimes they can happen because employees stay rigidly within their area of knowledge and don’t share skills with other departments. They look to themselves as experts and don’t value the opinion of others, even when they’re trying to help.

It’s also not unusual for process owners to blindly look at how things affect them without thinking about other parts of the organisation or customers. You then have a situation where several teams or business areas in the same organisation have different ways of doing the same thing, possibly on different platforms or systems.

Geography can also play a part. Organisations with workers located around the country (or globe) tend to have a silo mentality simply because they don’t communicate to each other as much as single-location teams, and close relationships are harder to form. It’s also worth noting cultural, language and time zone differences also play a part.

There are things you can do to stop this culture taking hold or get any worse. It starts with leaders having a united front and creating clear roles and responsibilities for their teams, so everyone works together across the organisation.

This might mean joining teams together physically if possible, or giving both teams joint incentives on projects and initiatives to encourage tighter collaboration. Accountability and responsibility helps here. Would having one person in charge, or two taking the lead be the best way to go? It doesn’t matter, just establish clear lines of leadership and make sure everyone knows them.

A silo mentality could be the death-knell for your organisation if it’s not addressed. They have to be broken down for an organisation to move forward. To do this, leaders must have a consensus on the way the organisation’s headed, set a path to help it get there, and bring everyone along for the ride.