Silos are created. There is often a “reason” for a silo being created and many of them are unintentional. Once that reason has taken hold and a silo emerges, it is then fattened up with a diet of suspicions, grudges and mistrust.
So, what are some of the reasons silos are created and how can you address them?
Silos can be created by simple things being misunderstood and then built upon.
For example, Team A never look up and say “hello” or smile when people enter their office. They just keep their heads down. From then on, the team gets labelled as “unfriendly”.
Other staff begin to avoid that room or part of the office. It becomes a place where you expect people to be unfriendly and who refuse to engage with you. That behaviour becomes reinforced.
However, the team labelled “unfriendly” might not see themselves that way. What they see are people wandering past and ignoring them. They view this as unfriendly. The behaviour is now being reinforced by both parties. A silo has been created and fed until it takes hold.
Addressing the initial misunderstanding is key to breaking down this silo.
We’re not all equal
I often see a silo emerge when there is a lack of equity in a manager’s treatment.
Typically, you have a manager that has two or three teams but favours one over the others. It’s often for reasons to do with relating better to that team or understanding them more.
For example, they might be as a manager who is a pace setter so they identify with members of a team who work in a similar way. They then end up working with them more closely than other teams.
This inevitably leads to resentment; “Oh they’re the golden boys and girls. We just get on with the grunt work.”
A silo has been created.
Now, the great thing about this is that once a manager is aware of it, they can change their behaviour. They might have to work a bit harder at getting people on side from the other team but they have the power to look at their behaviour and change it.
Location, location and isolation
Another reason that silos might form is that they just might be in a location which is physically cut off; either a different office, a different location or with physical barriers in the way.
I know two teams who work in a prison. They are physically cut off by six doors they have to open to be with each other. Six locked doors lead to a lack of communication. It’s a lot of effort to overcome physical barriers.
The way to break down this silo is regular physical contact with each other, for example a quarterly team workshop or lunch, interspersed with frequent “other” contact.
This could be using technology to develop team chat rooms, swapping team members over so they all get to work with each other, or even creating a shared tea-room that everyone has to go to.
We’re just too busy
Silos often emerge when people get caught up in the day to day demands of their work, to the extent that there is never time to do anything beyond what they see as important and urgent. This way isolation and burn out lie.
Silos are often characterised by short term goals, too much focus on the detail and not enough focus on the bigger picture.
Therefore, one way to help this type of silo is to install a leader who brings vision and allows time to reflect and look above the parapet at the possibilities beyond the silo.
If your team are still entrenched in their silo, read my next blog, “Four reasons why people like a silo”
Whatever the reason for a silo being created, if it is not tackled, it will grow until the damage it wreaks gets harder and harder to limit and repair.
Silos are so prevalent that I’ve created a Knowledge Pack about them for the leaders I work with. Download this free gift, “Everything you need to know about silos”.
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