Destroying workplace silos: The first step to ultimate collaboration

Mar 16, 2016 · 5 min read

The Silo Mentality has definitely had its day in the sun. But, it is my sincere hope that the sun is setting on such an antiquated business model. The idea of “yours” vs. “mine” in terms of information, best practices, accounts or prospects seems counter-productive in the workplace. Silos discourage communication and collaboration among teams. Furthermore, they can lead to poor decision making due to a lack of information. Aside from the obvious effect on actual tasks, silos can greatly affect team morale. It’s common to see employees lack empowerment to address issues as the problem falls in someone else’s “territory”. So why have so many companies turned a blind eye to, or worse, even encouraged this behavior?

Oftentimes, silos develop over time and are difficult to identify until it’s too late. Employees become more attached to their own department and responsibilities and less tuned-in to the overall goals and objectives of the company. Take a look at these four warning signs to see if you’re in the danger zone. In some cases, silos develop organically due to things like process redundancies or employees developing feelings of protectiveness over certain information and what they bring to the table. In other cases what starts as taking ownership of an account or potential sale turns into being territorial and possessive. Sadly, it’s common to see silos breeding fear and discouraging collaboration across teams.

Encourage open communication

If your company is stuck in a rut of silos, change will have to come from the top. In this case, walking the walk is as important as talking the talk. Be completely transparent with your organization and clearly communicate that more value comes from sharing information and processes than from “owning” your own accounts and customer stories. Gone are the days of placing greater value on how many decks your sales reps send out or how many support tickets each individual support tech answers. At the end of the day, the company will be a success when each person is working towards a common goal rather than individual metrics.

Provide powerful tools

You wouldn’t ask a chef to work with dull knives or tell a sales rep to track leads manually on a pad of paper. So it’s unreasonable to expect teams to collaborate without the right tools. Take traditional CRMs, for instance. traditional CRMs are universally used among sales teams but feed into the silo mentality by requiring someone to “own” the data and limiting company access. Account owners are responsible for entering pertinent information but it is often locked into specific accounts. Further exacerbating the issue is the common practice of charging per seat which often leads company to skimp on licenses in an effort to save a buck rather than allowing an entire team or organization access. So, why not try a collaborative CRM which focuses on company-wide engagement and cooperation by enabling teams like sales, customer success, help desk, etc., to share information collected through all customer interactions. It enables transparency among teams which in turn leads to better experiences for your customers. There’s less bouncing customers from department to department, less time wasted waiting on another team to answer a question and less annoying follow-up emails sent to said team when they forget to respond to you the first time.

Get physical

Yes, I mean that seriously. But no, I don’t mean that in the same way Olivia Newton-John did. There’s a reason more and more companies are opting away from the traditional cubicle and moving towards open floor-plans and large work rooms. You can’t expect your team to collaborate if they don’t have somewhere to comfortably work. If you want to see your team working together on processes and projects, give them a physical space to go. And while, Skype, Hangout and Slack are excellent tools, they can’t completely replace in-person interactions. Think of things like conference rooms, white boards and large tables which all help in the creation of a collaborative environment.

This isn’t to say that individual phone rooms, offices or remote workers are detrimental to productivity and collaboration. Phone rooms and offices can offer privacy and a quiet environment when necessary. And it’s a pretty common sight now for companies to support employees who work remotely. It’s easier than ever to do thanks to collaborative CRMs and the communication tools mentioned in the previous paragraph. Plus, it certainly have its advantages; it can be quite cost efficient, allows you to retain quality employees who may have to relocate and fosters a strong work-life balance leading to less employee burnout. But, most companies who allow for remote work also understand how important it is to have all their employees together at some point. Face-to-face interactions can’t be replaced. At the end of the day, it’s important to provide an environment that fosters the type of work behavior you encourage at your company. Want to learn more about building effective collaborative work spaces? Take a look at Knoll’s white paper.

Adopt common processes

Evan Rosen is the author of The Culture of Collaboration and he says it best when he states “when systems interact, people are more likely to interact.” Take the time to adopt and promote common processes across teams. Teams will work together when they are provided the same data and cross-functional processes because it creates a basis of trust by eliminating a sense of competition. There is less incentive to keep things private when everyone is on the same page.

At a time when the focus on workplace transparency and collaboration are at an all-time high and there is no shortage of powerful tools to aid in this focus, there is no excuse to still be plagued by silos. Take an active approach to eliminate them. Declare a change in priorities, provide your team ample tools and space to work together and enable them to be successful with cross-functional processes.

Want to learn more about collaborative CRMs and what makes them run? Join us and 100 of our closest friends for a night of networking, software integration talk and local beers & bites.

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Tech Entrepreneur. Digital & product marketer. All with a bleeding heart.

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