In many fast-growing mid-market companies, departments and teams do their work with little time or effort spent communicating with other departments or teams. What’s the harm as long as everyone is getting their work done? According to an article in Forbes, this “silo mentality... will reduce efficiency in the overall operation, reduce morale, and may contribute to the demise of a productive company culture.” These silos also have a negative impact on customer satisfaction and can kill innovation, according to an HBR article. This article also points out that “the bigger the company the more harmful a role silos play.” So, the time to step back and evaluate whether your have silos and take the time to fix them is now.
How to Bust Silos
- 1. Start with a common purpose. All of your department and teams should be unified around one common driving force - your company’s Core Purpose. And, you should all be working together to achieve a common, visionary goal - your company’s BHAG. If you haven’t defined these key elements of your company’s long-term strategy, do it now. If you have them defined, make sure you are using them well every day. Having them isn’t doing you any good if the people working in those silos don’t know what they are or how their work is helping your company live its purpose and get closer to its BHAG.
- 2. Plan for success. Growing companies striving for long-term strategic goals have complex initiatives; launching new products, expanding to new markets, integrating acquisitions, opening new locations, etc. require coordinated efforts between your product, sales, marketing, and delivery teams. These enterprise-wide initiatives are complex to manage and often fail, especially if you don’t communicate effectively between departments. Good communication starts with clear expectations. This all comes down to effective planning for cross-departmental success. Get in a room with your executive team, break your large initiatives down into a handful of top priorities that need to get done this quarter, and ensure that everyone agrees on who owns which priorities and what success looks like. Then, cascade your executive team level plan to your departments. Each department should have priorities to support the company’s plan for the quarter, and each person should have clear and measurable priorities to support the team’s plan. The final key step is to come back together and share plans across departments; have the tough conversations about setting realistic due dates on priorities that are dependent on each other, and talk through any potential resource issues before the quarter begins. Set your initiatives up for success.
- 3. Make it visible. Put your company, departmental, and individual priorities on a dashboard and status them weekly so that everyone can see how the work is going. It sounds complex to have an initiative broken down into quarterly priorities at the executive team, departmental, and individual levels. That’s a lot to manage and keep track of - and you don’t want to have to dig through spreadsheets, read between the lines on lengthy reports, or sit through hours of boring status meetings from different departments to figure out how your initiative is going. If you are a Rhythm software user, you can set up a dashboard where you can easily drill in on your important initiative to see how the work is going at the company, team, and individual level over the course of multiple quarters. With a couple of clicks, you will know what victories or roadblocks the team is having, and you can zero in on the person or department that needs help.
- 4. Do the work and collaborate. Throughout the quarter, everyone in your company is accountable to executing their part of the initiative. They should status weekly, and they should make a comment in Rhythm to tell the story behind the status. This way, everyone in the company has real-time visibility into how the work is going. Even if you are in a different department or a different location, you can drill in to see who on the team needs help, and you can collaborate with them to help them get back on track right in the software.
There it is - 4 simple steps to solve a complex problem. Even if your organization has a collaborative culture, as you grow, you may find that you need more tools to help you collaborate effectively. Silos don’t happen on purpose; usually, they creep up on you over time as your teams get larger and the work within the departments gets more specialized. Prevent silos from forming as you grow by following the steps above, and enjoy creating a culture of innovation, fostering customer satisfaction and employee engagement, and getting your initiatives done, successfully.
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