The “Silo Effect”: How to Get Your Teams to Collaborate Cross-Functionally

Much like high school, there tend to be some unique personality types in each workplace. In the past, we refer to these stereotypes as the “Jocks”, the “Theatre Kids”, the “Geeks”. In the adult world, we call them by department names.

It goes without saying that the Accounting team will have a much different perspective than the Sales folks – one that requires great attention to details while the other prefers a more spontaneous approach. After all, each team has its own specialty that is unique to their job – and that’s a good thing! But too much segmentation can also hinder communication, cross-functional activities, and productivity. Here are some things to be aware of.

Departmental Silos & Subcultures

The silo effect, defined by the lack of information flowing between groups of an organization, is a growing issue for companies of all sizes. Given the fact that we are still in the era of working from home, this effect is bound to continue – if not increase. Obviously, there is sufficient technology these days specifically designed to help teams work together wherever they are. But the problem with departmental silos isn’t just about communication.

When you work so closely with someone eight hours a day, you eventually adapt to their work patterns or, collectively, a new working style may emerge over time. This creates a subculture that is only familiar to you and the people you work together with. Being different from other teams is not a bad thing if it drives your own members to work effectively. But together, it is important that managers of these separate teams stay mindful and focused on achieving the bigger and common goal.

Tips for Cross-Functional Collaboration

When it comes to cross-functional collaboration, execs and leaders of each department have the responsibility to ensure that their teams are “getting along”. Some of the things you can consider doing include:

  • Setting up regular leadership meetings: While members of different departments are not required to work together on a day-to-day basis, it is important for leaders of each team to do so. Regular leadership meetings can help the organization stay informed of what everyone is doing. There’s also advantage in having one representative from each team communicate directly with other groups and their own.
  • Customizing team incentives: Because each department is so diverse, there will be differences in the things that motivate them. That is to say, instead of giving the same reward to all your workers, there is much more value in having an incentive that speaks precisely to the employee or the team they belong to.
  • Utilizing team management tools: Personality differences play a huge role in why teams approach work in various ways. Considering if there’s a project involving multiple groups in an organization, a team-fit tool drives data from more than one individual’s personality test; and that data can then be used to help leaders and project managers find the best way to communicate with those involved.

On Your Way to a Collaborative Future

I can’t think of an organization out there who wouldn’t want to be more collaborative, have a better communication system, and be more aligned in their common goals. Assuming how a chunk of the workforce will stay remote in the foreseeable future, this should give us more reason to make steps toward a collaborative future. Get started now!