Why are silos still so difficult to break out of?

It’s strange that despite knowing the costs of working within a silo, our tendency is to stay there.

So. What makes silos comfortable places to stay?


1. They are familiar

You may have worked in the same department, with the same team for many years.

Some of them may get on your nerves, but you know them and they know you. Better the devil you know and all that.


2. People need routine

Some people fear anti silo initiatives such as agile working, and hot desking – when you no longer have a specific base to work from – a threat to their physical routine.

Knowing that you have a place to park, a sandwich shop nearby, a team meeting with the same people at the same place provides a sense of order.

Routines are what make out of control parts of the job bearable.

In the words of a weary social worker I coach: “An impossible waiting list of clients and a mound of paperwork I can cope with, but threaten my routines then I am done for!”


3. ‘We are safe’

When you create virtual and non-virtual walls you keep out the enemy.

A new face or a different way of doing something may be unpleasant, invasive, and downright threatening.

People fear that once the ramparts have been crossed, then, retaining power and autonomy will be lost.

At the same time, if I leave my silo, I am exposed. I lose my team support and no one will respect my experience and knowledge because they don’t know me.


4. Sometimes it works to have a shared ‘enemy’

It’s not just you that thinks the new HR policy on ‘co-production’ or ‘integration’ will never work, your whole team think so too.

There is safety in numbers.

Change is much more difficult to enforce when everyone is against it.

There is safety in numbers and a common purpose in dissatisfaction.


With so many perks, why would you want to leave the silo?!

The truth is, people generally change when they are forced to i.e. Your team’s coffee room is now an office and you must go to the canteen for a break.

However, people will naturally leave the silo when they perceive or believe the benefits of leaving outweigh the costs of staying.

A good leader will make sure that the following are embedded into the process of initiating and managing the change:

  • Familiarity
  • Routine
  • Security
  • Clear tangible benefits

Once a team feels reassured that the positive aspects of a silo can be experienced when working in a non-silo type of way, then the walls will come tumbling down.

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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