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Working Toward a Common Goal: A Cure for the Silo Mentality (and Why It’s Killing Your Business)

Silo mentality, isolated team, no goals, narrow mindset, silo mindset

Take a look at this article from the Los Angeles Times. Or this one from the Baltimore Business Journal.

You’ll read about small to medium businesses that are now thriving by collectively working within their organizations to find new opportunities in the market. There’s a common theme in both articles that wasn’t explicitly mentioned but certainly implied—teamwork.

They didn’t work as a company with employees working in a number of departments, they worked as a team of people working toward a common goal. Not once did any of the CEOs on that list give a special thanks to a single department, or manager, or employee.

The CEOs spoke about their achievements as collaborations, which is exactly what set them apart from their failing counterparts. They had a goal, and they worked toward it.

Their common goals are what gave their teams the focus, determination, and drive they needed to achieve what many business owners would believe is impossible to do in times like these.

Cross-functional collaboration will help save your business

“Collaboration” and “teamwork” are fictional words for some of today’s top-tier executives, who don’t only have a pandemic on their hands, but also conflict within departments, the root cause of which they can’t seem to identify.

But we’re telling business owners and executives, right now, to prioritize and solve these cross-departmental issues if they want their companies to endure these challenging times and perform better than you would’ve imagined.

And one of the ways you can turn your departments into a cohesive team is to work toward a common goal.

You started a company with a goal, mission statement, and vision in mind. Communicate those goals and the vision to your heads of department.

You have to drill that common goal into them so that they don’t risk becoming those with a “silo mindset.”

What is a silo mindset?

Take a look at some of these frequently-used statements from heads of department that any CEO would recognize:

“My department has done its part, and did exactly what you said.”

 “None of this would’ve happened if it weren’t for X department.”

 “My department is too busy to meet right now.”

 “I’m the head of the department. Only I can communicate with my team.”

People with silo mindsets are narrow-minded, have tunnel vision, are too technical, and act as “department gatekeepers.”

Cross-departmental conflict can be a result of these gatekeepers refusing proper communication with other departments, and refusing to take responsibility for inefficiency of company processes and lack of results.

It’s always someone else’s responsibility, not theirs. It’s always another department’s problem and never theirs.

Silencing the silo mindset will require you change it into a goal-driven, “big picture” mindset.

 A big picture mindset means teaching heads of departments and team members that blaming other departments for the company’s lack of results doesn’t matter. What matters is the results.

You don’t see a paramedic in an ambulance only doing “what they’re supposed to do” and saying anything else beyond isn’t their responsibility.

They’re all focusing their energy on a single goal, and it’s to quickly and safely transport the patient back to the hospital.

There’s no “doing your part, and that’s that.” There is only “doing.”

Goal-oriented solutions to cross-functional issues in the workplace

I learned that this way of thinking is running rampant in my team of executives, now what?

A word of warning: the silo mentality is very resistant to change.

When you realign departments with a common goal, which will push everyone to work together, you are challenging these people’s authority. You are telling them that their jobs as gatekeepers is over, and they will have to step aside to let other departments work with their team.

This is because they have no business acumen; they would rather stick to their specialty, and have no desire to learn about different aspects of the business that may require them to step outside of their comfort zones.

Create project groups

Delays in project delivery for a client is a common result of a lack of cross-departmental teamwork and a host of silos within an organization.

The problem is that when a department exhibits a degree of individualism, they separate themselves from other departments and focus on “their own thing.” This all results in a lack of communication, a confusing project timeline, and an unsatisfied client.

You can challenge these department silos by putting departments into “project groups.” Turning your separate departments into a single group will force them to think collectively, which will eventually build trust among members of different departments.

Create a big picture through a “company program”

Warding off conflict among departments will involve bringing everyone together by creating a shared goal.

One way to do that is to create a company program that solely focuses on an aspect of a company’s mission statement (i.e. a consistent goal). The program will consist of a project coordinator and representatives from each department.

The purpose of this company program is to create a sense of unity within the organization, and will additionally serve as a reminder for all departments that they are each directly responsible for achieving the company’s main strategic objectives.

“The Exponential Growth Unit”

When businesses stick to manual processes and non-digital forms of communication, it can cause palpable disconnection among departments. And right when you think you’ve managed to create a building block for future cross-functional teamwork, the newly-built foundation immediately falls apart.

Consider adopting a digital transformation strategy in order to digitize all of your business’s internal processes, making room for easy cross-departmental communication.

We also offer a service called “The Exponential Growth Unit,” which is formed based on transformation initiatives (i.e. digital transformation and data analytics) that will help turn your company into a more agile and collaborative business.

Clearly defined OKRs

Defeat the silo mindset of your department heads or team member with Objective Key Results (OKRs). OKRs are a list of department-level goals that must be manageable, actionable, and trackable.

Encourage dialogue by letting your department heads meet up to discuss their OKRs. The caveat of this strategy is that every department needs to set department-level goals based on the company’s main, long-term goals and objectives. All of these department-level goals should serve the shared and common goal of the company.

OKRs keep your departments accountable for the company’s results and outcomes, and will nurture the growth of a more collective, “big picture” mindset among team members.

Hire a consultant or outsource the work

As mentioned earlier, those with a silo mindset have a strong aversion to change, and can make it difficult for you to change your business’s framework into one that is more goal-oriented.

Don’t let them slow your progress or project down. If you detect the slightest resistance from any department, it may be time for you to hire a consultant or outsource your department’s work.

Bringing in an expert, whether it be outside help or a consultant, will be a win-win for both you and the silo department: your department will learn from the team of experts on how to handle certain processes, and at the same time, your project won’t end up being delayed.

Consultants could also teach your heads of department to think more strategically, and to focus on the company’s big picture.

CEOs, put an end to the blame games.

Everyone is responsible for the mission, goals, and strategic objectives of the organization, not just the CEO.

Business owners and CEOs need to make that very clear to their departments by creating OKRs, encouraging dialogue, and rejecting any deflection of responsibility by a head of department or team member.

All departments must hold themselves accountable to all of the business’s outcomes and results, and they also need to understand that when one department is affected, everyone is affected.

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