Breaking Silos – Connecting People

Stepping across functional boundaries in siloed organizations makes you the enemy. What are you doing here? This is my turf.

Siloed organizations waste resources, squander opportunities, and duplicate effort.

the process of change begins with imagination

7 signs your organization is siloed:

  1. The right hand duplicates what the left hand already did.
  2. Pockets of brilliance languish into collective ignorance.
  3. Resources are stockpiled, rather than leveraged by those who need them most.
  4. Success is defined by out-doing colleagues, rather than serving customers.
  5. Protective language is normal. “It’s not my problem.”
  6. Colleagues become enemies.
  7. Leaders run interference for big egos. Teammates take offense quickly and easily.

Siloed organizations focus on themselves more than customers.

4 ways to break silos:

#1. The process of change begins with imagination, moves to language, and finds expression in behaviors.

  1. Imagine a boundaryless organization. How are people talking, interacting, feeling, and performing?
  2. Identify and employ boundaryless language every day.
  3. Give power to cross-functional teams*.

Describe what you want in positive language. Bad-mouthing doesn’t build positive environments.

#2. Energize true believers. Don’t focus on skeptics, at first. Have hallway conversations with influencers. See whose eyes light up when you discuss the danger of silos and the power of highly collaborative organizations.

#3. Start a positive whisper campaign. Create shared language with true believers. How do boundaryless organizations talk to each other?

Adopt the same words. New language feels awkward at first. Use it anyway. Say what’s in your heart. If your heart agrees with the words, even if they feel awkward, use them. With time, new words will become second nature.

#4. Give power to cross-functional teams. Place a final decision-maker on all cross-functional teams. Eliminate the need to run decisions up the chain.

  1. Build consensus.
  2. Make the decision.
  3. Assign responsibilities.
  4. Set the follow-up meeting.
  5. Begin execution immediately.

Don’t make enemies of the people you’re trying to connect. 

How might leaders build boundaryless organizations?

*Giving power to cross-functional teams is inspired by Jack Welch’s use of cross-functional teams at GE.

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