Silos… a barrier to change and success

Posted by Roxanne Chugg

A siloed organisation is not agile and cannot act quickly on opportunities that arise in a fast-paced business landscape, nor is it able to make productive decisions about how to change in order to seize these opportunities. This is a significant strategic risk for many organisations.

We talk with our clients about silos all the time... silos can occur in the big global corporations, medium and small business with just a few employees. Public, private, not for profit… and no matter the size or sector, they are detrimental to an organisation’s ability to succeed and prosper.

Silos, just like silos used by Farmers, hold something important and make it hard to get at. That’s good when you’re protecting chaff, wheat, corn or oats from the weather or vermin. But it’s not so good when you’re trying to change across your organisation. Silos create an environment where sharing and collaborating for anything other than one silo’s special interests is virtually impossible and is not encouraged and enabled.  Everyone has the mentality to look after their little patch. Sound familiar?

In most cases organisations don’t change because they want to. They change because they are forced to by customers, by competition, by advances in science and technology and by government regulation or legislation. But it doesn’t work unless leadership leads and helps everyone understands why the change(s) must happen and why they need to work together in new and different ways toward a common goal.  Creating that sense of urgency for change…

Creating a compelling case for change is a critical step in breaking down silos:

It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success nor dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favor, and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who does not truly believe in anything new until they have had experience of it - Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli

Change; only by inspiring the entire organisation with a compelling case or sense of urgency for why it needs to change (the reason) in order to ensure the future success and sustainability of the business… and job security (what’s in it for me?) will anyone be willing to take a risk and strive for a new order of things. You need to get your guiding coalition on board as change agents to guide and facilitate the change.

To eliminate silos you must work to give people in the organisation the informal and formal opportunities to collaboriate, socialise and to support each other in the achievement of common goals.

How do you do this in your organisation or business?