A silo is a structure used for storing bulk materials. On farms, they are typically used to store grain or feed, and the thin cylindrical structures are as familiar to people as the quintessential red barn. Silos are an important and essential part of agriculture but can be destructive in the business world.
The Silo Effect in business refers to the lack of communication across departments or groups. On a farm, the silos keep the grains from mixing; in an organization, the silos prevent information from flowing. And don’t be fooled, the Silo Effect does not just affect the Fortune 500 companies; it is prevalent in businesses of all sizes. One person can represent their own silo and damage the flow of information to other individuals, ultimately affecting productivity.
As a business leader, you need to be mindful of this trend and work to break down the Silo Effect.
Communicate your vision. Make sure ALL employees understand the goals of the organization.
Encourage collaboration and innovation. If the research department has an idea that it wants to present, it is much better to have communicated with production and sales beforehand and receive buy-in and strategic advice.
Re-evaluate the formal organization chart. People should be encouraged to interact regardless of title and position on an organization chart. Information should be shared horizontally as well as vertically.
Improve communication channels. Plan your meetings for increased effectiveness. Use technology to increase information flow. Ask for feedback and then reward it.
Have fun. When team members have fun together, it is much easier for them to work together towards a common goal. There is real value in the company picnic and other social events. A fun work atmosphere encourages creativity and improves morale which will lead to a more productive office.
We have all been victims of the Silo Effect. We have all been frustrated customers of businesses and have wondered if the right-hand knows what the left hand is doing. Remember to work constantly to instill a culture of collaboration in your organization. As the leader, you can effectively SMASH the SILOS.
Lee Yarborough and her father, Braxton Cutchin, founded the company in 1996. She has served on the Board of Directors of NAPEO and currently serves as the Chair for the NAPEO Carolinas Leadership Council. In 2015, she was named a Fellow of the eleventh class of the Liberty Fellowship Program and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. Lee also serves on the Executive Board of Public Education Partners and is the founder and director of Read Up Greenville, a young adult and middle grades book festival in downtown Greenville, SC.