Break Down Silos at Work and Create Cross-Functional Collaboration with These 5 Tips
Many businesses struggle with breaking down silos which in turn reduces cross-functional collaboration and interdepartmental communication. But with the right tactics, you can help break down these silos to create a more functional and successful organization.
When a business is working in silos, its people, teams, or departments are working towards a common objective, often in close physical proximity to each other, but not sharing information or resources. The idea of silos in business is not a new one. It’s a challenge that organizations have been faced with for as long as there have been multi-departmental businesses. And, even though technology and communication tools have evolved by leaps and bounds, it is as prominent today as it has ever been – especially in large organizations or companies that are growing at a rapid pace.
A recent study by McKinsey & Company polled senior executives and turned up some interesting results – it shows that only 25% of respondents describe their organization as being effective at sharing knowledge across teams. This is troublesome when you consider the challenges and risks associated with a lack of cross-functional collaboration and interdepartmental communication, which include:
- Wasted time and resources
- Duplication of efforts
- Inefficiency and increased risk of errors
- Decreased staff morale and motivation
- Communication breakdowns
- Poor customer experiences
That’s why breaking down silos and increasing communication are of key importance for organizations. Creating an environment where every department is working together for the good of the business means that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. A company with collaborative departments is able to operate to its full potential – and beyond.
Here are five ways to break down silos in your business.
1. Create Alignment Among Your Leadership Team
Despite the fact that employees in different departments might not work directly together, it’s important that their respective leaders do. Your company’s leadership team should meet, at least on a weekly basis, to discuss things like:
- Larger company goals and strategic direction
- Ongoing departmental and company-wide initiatives to identify opportunities for cross-team collaboration and communication
- Appropriate delegation of tasks and responsibilities
Your leadership team should also take this opportunity to have an open and honest discussion about any disagreements regarding priorities or differences in opinion between departments. These disagreements, when left unaddressed, can be a primary catalyst for departmental silos. In order for an organization to be successful, it’s important that its leaders are able to act as a cohesive team, working for the best interest of the business rather than as individuals working to achieve their own goals. Outback Team Building & Training offers a wide array of coaching and consulting solutions that help make this possible. Our Leadership Team Cohesion Consulting solution can help your company’s leaders to do exactly that by equipping them with the skills and mindset necessary to work in unison and achieve a common goal.
2. Encourage Leaders to Take Charge on Cross-Departmental Collaboration
A study from the Harvard Business Review found that 75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional and fail on at least three of five criteria:
- Meeting a planned budget
- Staying on schedule
- Adhering to specifications
- Meeting customer expectations
- Maintaining alignment with the company’s corporate goals
However, that same research found that projects championed by a high-level executive or overseen by a team of leaders from different departments, experienced a 76% success rate. These figures go to show the impact that a well-aligned leadership team can have on cross-departmental collaboration and communication.
Once your leadership team is aligned among themselves, the next key step is for them to act as the catalysts that drive successful cross-departmental collaboration and communication. They can do this in a number of ways including:
- Holding weekly department meetings to brief their team on company-wide initiatives and news
- Championing interdepartmental communication and collaboration by acting as a bridge between departments when needed
- Organize non-work-related opportunities for building relationships, such as creating office clubs or holding team lunches with other departments
- Rewarding and recognizing collaborative behavior between their team members and other departments
3. Help Teams and Departments Connect
Often, the biggest challenge inhibiting collaboration and communication between departments is simply that employees don’t feel comfortable reaching out to their colleagues in different departments because they don’t know them well enough. But the good news is that there’s a simple solution to this challenge: team building activities.
Facilitating opportunities for your employees to get to know one another on a more personal level is a great approach to helping them feel more comfortable communicating in a professional capacity. It even helps increase productivity, efficiency, and employee satisfaction.
Outback Team Building & Training is in the business of helping bring together employees from every department of an organization. If you’re interested in learning more about team building activities that can help increase cross-departmental collaboration, check out our blog post: The 5 Best Team Building Activities for Communication at Work.
4. Define and Communicate a Common Vision
One of the most critical components in cross-departmental collaboration is for the organization to define and clearly communicate a common vision throughout the entire company. In order to prevent silos from forming, teams need to understand how they contribute to the big picture and how other teams and departments do as well. This insight and understanding makes employees feel like a united team working as one for the success of the company rather than individuals working for their own success or that of only their immediate department.
But the reality is that only 47% of workers are able to make the connection between their day-to-day duties and how they impact the company’s financials, according to a study from Robert Half Management Resources. What this really means is that, statistically, more than half of your employees don’t understand how what they do on a daily basis is actually helping to improve or grow the company. This makes it challenging for them to contribute effectively to their own department, let alone the organization as a whole.
To create a unified vision, your organization should focus on defining its core values and communicating them at every turn – from new employee onboarding to all-hands meetings and performance reviews. Your company’s core values help align your team, contribute to workplace culture, and guide the behaviors and actions of your employees, your company’s departments, and your organization as a whole. If you’re in search of a collaborative way to define your company’s core values, check out our training and development program, Creating Mission, Vision, and Values, which can help you to do so – and will allow your employees to be involved in the process from the outset.
5. Empower Cross-Functional Collaboration by Making Communication Easy
According to data from ClearCompany, 86% of executives and employees blame bad communication for team problems and failures. What this proves is that organizations need to put an emphasis on streamlining interdepartmental communication. This can include:
Implementing Chat and Collaboration Tools
When your employees perceive barriers to interdepartmental communication and collaboration, they’re significantly less likely to attempt it. That’s why it’s important to implement company-wide chat and collaboration tools that make it easy for members of different departments to connect when they need to. For instance, at Outback Team Building & Training, our marketing, sales, and events teams often need insight and information from one another. So, we utilize:
- Slack to ensure that it’s easy for them to send each other a message
- Smartsheet and Hubspot as centralized asset storage systems
Each department has an appropriate level of access to each department’s databases so that they can easily track down anything they may need in the course of their work.
Assigning Interdepartmental Liaisons
If your organization is undertaking a project that requires the collaboration of multiple departments, you can consider assigning a cross-departmental liaison. This person would be responsible for encouraging communication between all of the departments participating in the project. This could take the form of weekly or monthly meetings and can cover everything from status updates to project facets that require collaboration between multiple departments to roadblocks being caused for each department by another.
Enlisting Group Communication Skills Development Sessions
Sometimes, the best approach is to give your team some hands-on training when it comes to enhancing interdepartmental communication. Whether at a company retreat, an off-site meeting, or in your own boardroom, a training and development program, such as our own Cross Boundary Communication program can exactly what you need. Together, your organization can learn to practice clear communication and effective listening skills.
Learn More About How You Can Increase Cross-Functional Collaboration in Your Organization
For more information about how you can break down silos in business and increase interdepartmental communication and collaboration, just reach out to our Employee Engagement Consultants.