How to Break Down Silos in the Workplace

Silos can create barriers in the workplace, standing between you and your company’s goals. They often stem from a breakdown in communication, either because teams don’t think to or choose not to share information. Although some distinction between departments is necessary, like separating crops based on what each one needs to thrive, too much can be detrimental to the company’s growth.

So how do you break down silos in the workplace? By taking a step back, realigning the team and working toward a shared goal.

Here are three steps to help you get there.

1. Develop a unified vision and mission statement.

There was a great line Simon Sinek, best-selling author of “Start With Why,” once shared in his TED Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” He said that if you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if they believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood, sweat, and tears. Hiring employees who share your beliefs starts by determining what you stand for in the first place. If you haven’t already done so, commit your company’s vision and mission statement to paper. What do you believe and what do you want to achieve as a result? Companies that have already defined those statements may just need to resurface them and make them central to their workplace. Find ways that your company’s vision and mission can inform the decisions made by employees, managers and executives.

2. Get employee buy-in.

To re-align employees on the company’s vision and mission, frame the conversation around how it will benefit them. Consider holding a “Town Hall” meeting to discuss where the company is headed, the instrumental role employees will play in getting there, and how it will benefit them along the way. Employee buy-in is critical to creating real, institutional change, according to Dr. John Kotter, Harvard Business School professor and author of “Buy-In.” Based on his research, 70 percent of all organizational change efforts fail. Why? He explained it in an interview with HR Bartender several years ago: “Executives simply don’t get enough buy-in, from enough people, for their initiatives and ideas.”

3. Hold “Work-Out” sessions.

The speed of globalization and technology forces us to constantly re-think the way work gets done. Decisions have to be made faster. Employees need to be more engaged than ever. And departments need to keep the lines of communication open. More than 25 years ago, Jack Welch, then CEO of GE, faced those same challenges. How did he overcome them? By getting everyone in the same room and giving them a problem to solve. He pioneered the “GE Work-Out” process, a series of structured forums that brought people together across levels, job functions, and locations to solve problems in real time. That same approach can help to break down silos at your company. The next time a problem arises, identify the root cause, the people involved, and then get them together to resolve it. Beforehand, send out an agenda, outline what each person is expected to bring to the table, and state the desired outcome.

Those problem-solving sessions can act as a reminder that the best way to break down walls is to open up doors.