There are two types of working environments. Both function on how correctly they are managed.

The first type of working environment is the silo-run environment. These employees function within defined boundaries, keeping information on a need-to-know basis. Having this work ethic leads to a silo mentality; performing only what they need to do and not being bothered by other departments.

A LOT of mistakes can be made due to the lack of communication in this environment!

This leads to the second environment. The total opposite. Employees are given a sense of ownership and are not constantly monitored. They make most of their decisions in their work and work as a cross-functional team. Go team!

The biggest challenge in organisational silos is getting people to stop protecting what is theirs and start sharing information. So how do we get employees to work together?

Let us look at some pointers that can help us break down these silo walls.

Eliminate formality

Very often, an endless chain of command is in place before the next step in work can be performed. This takes away the employees’ sense of ownership of a task and possibly caring less about the work at hand. I had to have a giggle at a client recently in the way things were run in their company. For a department to complete a new task that was assigned to them, a program had to be installed on their PC’s. Even though some of them could do it themselves, it had to be done by the IT department. This set them back by a week. This could have been avoided if they could have done it themselves.

By having an open plan office, it can make a world of a difference. This allows easy flow of communication amongst one another. Employees do not feel hen-pecked as they are given the freedom of making decisions, thus eliminating the endless chain of command.

Information sharing

Employees sometimes have an unclear understanding of the steps in the process of the work, and are not afforded the understanding of the whole picture. For example, the Sales department and the Administration department are constantly bashing heads. Administration is trying to keep costs down and maintain low levels of inventory, whilst Sales is trying to bring as many clients in as possible, and often do not consult in Administration on stock levels. This is a very common problem in many companies.

What if Sales and Admin were to have training on each other’s work? You probably will get a lot of hostility at the start, as some employees may feel that their job could be threatened and taken away by the other department. There may also be feelings of “it is not my job why should I know this?”.

These are relevant concerns.

It is important as one can get the broader picture of why each department functions the way they do. With a bit of training, they got a better understanding of each other’s department. Not only there is a better understanding, but employees gain new work skills.

Information is often kept to each department, but its access should be given to all. These are the main two pointers that can make a world of a difference to your company.