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Silo Busting: 7 Stupidly Simple Ways to Burst Silos in Your Organization

Silos are a common problem in many organizations, and they can be detrimental to productivity. They create an atmosphere of competition instead of collaboration and prevent teams from working together effectively. As a result, projects take longer than expected and the organization’s overall performance suffers.

The vast majority of companies are naturally grouped into silos. Teams, departments, divisions, and business units are all necessary components of a well-run organization. Silos often form by nature when teams develop their own individual processes and workflows and departments naturally store information in different ways. But without cross-collaboration with one another, silos can lead to inefficiencies, missed opportunities, and lack of innovation.

Breaking down silos is essential if companies want to maximize their potential for success by leveraging collective knowledge across different areas of the business. In this article, we’ll look at the early signs of corporate silos as well as explore seven simple ways to break down silos in your organization so that you can foster better collaboration among teams while still respecting individual autonomy.

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At Orion, we’ve seen how organizational silos have hindered progress on important initiatives. Teams work independently without considering the implications for other departments or business functions. They optimize within their own silos and fail to see the bigger picture.

With the COVID-19 pandemic transforming the way organizations work, silo busting is more important than ever. Sticking with the status quo is no longer an option.

Drawbacks and Early Signs of Corporate Silos

Reduced Collaboration

Silos create a lack of collaboration between departments, meaning that employees are not able to come together and work on ideas and issues. This can lead to inefficiencies due to time wastage, as well as a lack of creativity.

Common signs

Lack of Efficiency

With siloes, departments are unaware of what other teams are doing and can end up working on the same thing from different angles which creates duplicate work leading to low efficiency.

Common signs

Low Motivation and Morale

Silos discourage cooperation among employees due to a sense of competition instead of collaboration. This can result in decreased motivation causing people to become disengaged with their work, leading to a decrease in morale and job satisfaction.

Common signs

The drawbacks of silos in an organization are often clear and unmistakable. But there is hope. With the right strategies in place, organizations can break down these silos to foster better collaboration between teams while still respecting individual autonomy. Below are seven tips we’ve found to be effective in busting silos and fostering collaboration:

1. Start From Within

Busting silos is a process that starts from within a silo. Before you can break down silos and create an open environment for collaboration, team members must first acknowledge the existence of silos and understand how they impact their work.

Involving your teams in identifying existing silos is a great way to start this process. Ask each team to identify any internal communication or collaboration issues that are preventing them from working together effectively. Once these silos have been identified, teams can start to brainstorm ideas on how to break down those barriers.

Take one of the most common issues prevalent today—the rift between marketing and sales. Oftentimes, sales complain that they don’t get enough leads and if they do, they say they’re low quality. On the other hand, marketing may be frustrated that sales aren’t taking advantage of the leads they’re generating.

Clearly, the silos exist. But without acknowledgment from both teams, it’s impossible to break down that wall. Only then can marketing and sales work together to find ways to improve lead handover issues.

Taking this one step further, your team can develop ideas for how to bridge the gap between marketing and sales; such as creating an efficient lead qualification process or coming up with a joint marketing and sales plan.

2. Create a Shared Language and Use It Across the Company

Creating a shared language is another powerful way to break down silos in an organization. This helps everyone understand each other, regardless of their department or the project they’re working on.

Start by getting everyone in your company to agree on a common set of buzzwords and acronyms. Make sure these are documented somewhere that’s accessible to all departments, so everyone can easily reference them.

From there, encourage teams to use these terms when speaking with each other, even if they don’t work in the same department. This will help create a better understanding between different teams and foster more effective communication.

While this may seem unnecessary, we found that as organizations get bigger and older, the shared language starts to fade, and silos start to form. When it’s just the founder and the first employee, things are simpler.

By the time they hired their 100th employee, things started to look very different. This is especially true if this shared language wasn’t documented before.

Ensuring this language is used across the entire company is crucial—from job descriptions to onboarding, down to boardroom meetings. This helps get buy-in from all levels and makes it real.

Think about the most overused company value right now—our people are our greatest asset. Depending on your company and industry, that’s going to differ in how it looks. But if the only time that’s talked about is during the employee onboarding process, then it’ll have little weight.

But if this is cascaded through quarterly training programs available for everyone in the organization, repeated during all-staff meetings, down to the department-wide weekly meetings—then that’s something that everyone can rally around and believe in.

3. Focus on the Customer, Not the Process

One of the most common problems within organizations is that teams focus more on processes than on customer needs. The result is siloed departments that are focused on their own tasks and processes, but not on how they can work together to create better customer experiences.

Breaking down this type of silo means focusing less on each team’s individual processes and more on the customer experience. Get everyone to agree on which metrics are important to measure customer satisfaction, then track those metrics across departments.

This will help your teams understand how their work impacts the customer and give them the incentive to work together instead of in silos.

Take a look at the process of paying third-party vendors. With traditional silos, this “process” is left to the accounting department, and it’s not seen as something that affects the other departments.

But if you look at it from the customer’s perspective—your paying customer is waiting for a particular service or product that hasn’t arrived yet. They are starting to become unhappy and can potentially churn.


Because your vendor can’t fulfill them due to the outstanding bills you’ve had with them. The accounting department can’t process the payments because, for some reason, they don’t have the signed contract or that change order request.

In this scenario, no matter how fast accounting can process the payment (within 30 minutes), it’s irrelevant if they don’t have the documents they need.

By eliminating silos and focusing instead on how to improve the customer experience, your teams will be able to work together more effectively.

4. Align Objectives, Goals, Strategy, and Measurement

It’s important to align objectives, goals, and strategies across the organization. Everyone should be on the same page when it comes to what needs to be achieved, how it will be done, and how success will be measured.

A strategy map is a tool used to visualize objectives, goals, and strategies. It’s a simple but powerful way of making sure everyone is working towards the same goals and prioritizing the right initiatives. It shows how everyone’s work affects one another.

It’s a great tool to visualize cross-functional cause-and-effect relationships.

Creating an organizational strategy map will provide clarity and help teams focus their efforts on what really matters. It will show teams where their efforts are most needed and help them prioritize tasks.

Here’s a sample strategy map. It shows you the organization’s main financial objectives, how the customer strategy, internal operations, and support functions align and affect one another.

Sample Strategy Map

5. Encourage Cross-Functional Collaboration

One way to break down silos is by encouraging cross-functional collaboration. This means getting people from different departments or business functions to work together on projects or tasks.

Cross-functional collaboration can help teams understand each other’s challenges, learn from each other, and create better outcomes for the organization. Encourage people to attend meetings outside their area of expertise, or even join different departments’ initiatives to get a full picture of the company’s goals.

According to Harvard Business Review, “Individual units are historically focused on perfecting their products and processes, and give little thought to how their offerings might be even more valuable to the end-user when paired with those of another unit.”

Depending on the nature of your work, this can look different for everyone. For example, you can get started by inviting members from different departments on projects or offering cross-training initiatives. You can also create a platform where teams from different departments can ask each other questions and share knowledge.

A good place to start is where there’s a natural overlap between departments.

These initiatives will help teams understand each other’s challenges and find ways to collaborate more effectively.

6. Obtain Commitment and Buy-In Starting at the Top

Another way of eliminating silos is obtaining commitment and buy-in from all levels of the organization. Everyone needs to be on board with the idea of working together more effectively before any real progress can be made.

As with most organizational change, how the leadership team talks about and approaches the issue sets the tone for everyone else. Leading by example and showing that they are willing to make changes and collaborate with other departments are the best way to overcome organizational inertia.

On the other hand, when leaders say they want to change but don’t take any concrete steps to make it happen, employees will get discouraged and won’t feel motivated to break down silos.

The bottom line is that breaking down silos doesn’t happen overnight. It requires effort from all levels of the organization to make sure everyone is on board, and it takes time for teams to adjust to a new way of working together. But when everyone works together, the rewards far outweigh the effort.

With proper planning, commitment, and buy-in from all levels of the organization, breaking down silos can become a reality. And when it does, everyone in your organization will benefit from increased collaboration and more effective ways of working together. ​

7. Celebrate Successes Together as a Team, Rather Than Individually

Finally, break down silos by celebrating successes together when they happen.

When teams are encouraged to recognize each other’s successes and congratulate one another on accomplishments, it helps people feel appreciated and more connected to the team. When everyone feels like they’re part of a larger effort, it can help reduce organizational silos and increase collaboration.

Creating a culture of celebration and recognition for successes can also be a powerful way of driving motivation and encouraging people to work together.  This helps keep the momentum going and creates more opportunities to collaborate with other departments.

Need Help Busting Your Silos?

Breaking down silos is an ongoing process, but it’s essential if you want your organization to thrive in today’s competitive business environment.

Taking the steps outlined here can help you create a more positive and cohesive work environment for your teams and help them work together more effectively. With everyone working towards the same goal, you’ll see increased productivity and better results for your organization.

Let’s face it: Every major transformation initiative (digitalization, customer experience, etc.) and every core value chain (e.g. order-to-cash) requires cross-functional collaboration. Unfortunately, most organizations have evolved such that management practices and structures undermine synergy between departments. Breaking through functional silos is the best way to assure your investment in new strategies and/or new technologies yields long-term competitive advantage.

If you need help busting silos in your organization, Orion Development Group can help. We specialize in helping organizations break down silos and foster healthy collaboration. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you get started.

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