Silo Mentality is a dangerous mindset for teams to fall into, and with more people working online than ever, it’s increasingly important for businesses to understand what it is and how to combat it. The definition of siloed means to be isolated or separated from other ideas, people, or things. It follows, then, that Silo Mentality would be the top-down application of this mindset to an entire organization.
When working in silos, people isolate themselves from their team and other departments, resulting in lower efficiency, increased animosity, and a poorer work product.
In this article, we will cover how to best understand Silo Mentality and its major consequences, along with some of the best ways to combat it in the workplace.
What is Silo Mentality?
Silo Mentality is defined as a mindset of exclusivity that exists when people in different teams refuse to share information with other departments or team members. This restrictive attitude seals off communication creating an isolated work environment and often sees employees hoarding knowledge for their own benefit.
The presence of a Silo Mentality will cause people to be much more restrictive when sharing information with each other, causing a breakdown in communication and reducing the efficiency of the workplace as a whole. This attitude is most often observed between members of competing teams/the teams themselves, where some work may overlap and require collaboration.
Because this mentality affects not only the company culture but the work product as well, it contributes to the failure to reach critical business goals. In this way, Silo Mentality is a blockade to natural adaptation, growth, and evolution within the workplace.
When people work in isolation, they will often overlap in their work product or do unnecessary or misaligned work. These outcomes prevent adaptability within a business and lead to an overall lack of efficiency. Not only does this massively harm the company’s time and money, but it will usually be felt in the customer’s experience as well.
Where does Silo Mentality originate, and how does it form?
Silo Mentality is usually caused by the failure or ignorance of executive leadership, which can trickle down to processes throughout multiple teams. While the effects of Silo Mentality are often felt on an individual level, it’s more of a cultural issue that affects the mentality of an entire organization.
Silos typically form due to long-term stagnation or irresponsible leadership, but they don’t happen overnight. It usually surfaces as a pattern or cultural issue because it’s not caused by one action but by a domino of many different decisions and omissions. It’s important to remember that the teams in a siloed environment might not be the problem, but the mentality and structure they’re working within could be holding them back.
It’s most common to find siloed teams in a larger organization where communication is more difficult and teams are more separated. In this environment, it’s common for teams to become protective over their work product, information, and colleagues. This, paired with the obstruction of collaboration, makes it easy to fall into siloed thinking.
It’s important to remember that even when teams fall into Silo Mentality, it’s the leader’s job to create incentives and a culture where this isn’t possible. Ultimately, if they prioritize a culture of transparency and collaboration, there will be noticeable positive ramifications throughout the organization.
Learn more: How to Combat Silo Mentality with Online Whiteboards
Early Indicators Your Team Is Siloed
If you’re worried about your teams falling into Silo Mentality but aren’t sure how you might know, here are some early indicators that you might be moving toward a siloed workspace.
Lack of Collaboration
A lack of collaboration might be the biggest red flag regarding Silo Mentality. Collaboration is the backbone of successful communication in the workplace and ensures that everyone gets a voice.
If collaboration isn’t commonplace and required, it can often be forgotten. This is a major cause of Silo Mentality and is one of the most efficiency-draining practices in the workplace. For this reason, formalizing collaboration patterns is vital to ensure a consistent flow of communication and a clear set of priorities that everyone follows.
Collaboration doesn’t just happen through the phone or in a conference room either. It’s essential that you collaborate on specific platforms that are conducive to your success. This means most of your programs should integrate to create an interconnected workspace.
Redundant Work Product
One of the most frustrating indicators of Silo Mentality is when multiple people or teams repeat the same work. In this case, Silo Mentality is more than just an annoyance; it causes inefficiency between teams and lowers everyone’s overall productivity. If this happens, it’s a clear warning sign of a large disconnect in communication between teams. This disconnect could be a simple miscommunication but could also be symptomatic of a larger pattern of siloed thinking.
Disconnected Customer Experience
Just as communication pitfalls can lead to redundant work, they can also lead teams to work in completely opposite directions. A good example of this can be found in your CX. When analyzing a broken customer experience, you might find that different teams optimize entirely different processes. When not appropriately communicated, these agendas can be combative instead of cooperative, leading to serious ramifications within the product.
If you’re worried about becoming siloed, try mapping your customer journey with each team. If the results are different beyond a margin of error, there might be a problem in the organization’s communication structure.
Adding a new and diverse set of perspectives to any activity is the most significant advantage of collaboration. Additional diversity of thought is key to breaking up potential groupthink, which can be a big consequence of Silo Mentality.
Groupthink can occur from a lack of communication and misaligned priorities from leadership. If teams follow orders rather than work together, there likely isn’t much collaboration happening in their team.
This can impact their innovative capability, creativity, and ability to solve problems within their team. Without creative problem solving, any team will struggle to reach their full potential.
In order for a business to succeed, it requires everyone in the organization to work towards a shared goal. Creating incentives for shared priorities can be difficult, but it’s critical if you’re to move forward together effectively. Without shared goals, it becomes very easy for people to begin working towards their own benefit or even against each other.
Between departments or within teams, Silo Mentality creates a hostile environment that results in information hoarding and selfish motives. People can lose sight of the bigger picture, and it’s up to leadership to ensure this doesn’t happen.
One of the best ways to cure disjointed priorities is by adding many different touchpoints in relation to the big-picture goals. Revisiting these goals often helps keep everything in perspective and allows people to succeed both individually and as a team.
If you find that your team’s priorities don’t match your own, don’t just dismiss them either. Make sure to get them involved in the priority-setting process, so everyone’s goals are reflected. This can help improve team communication and morale while increasing the overall efficiency of the team.
Learn more: What is Customer Needs Analysis?
How does Silo Mentality disrupt workplace efficiency?
As we mentioned, Silo Mentality can have serious consequences within the workplace and can distance teams’ ability to effectively collaborate with each other. Here are some of the distinct consequences of falling into Silo Mentality.
When working in silos, people are prone to engaging in disconnected behavior, often working with misaligned priorities and making decisions based on their own personal benefit.
When people work like this, they don’t see the value in helping solve each other’s problems and lack the incentive to do so. This makes communication and collaboration extremely stagnant between teams which is a big downside of the Silo Mentality.
Silo Mentality causes people to look toward their own personal benefit rather than the goals and structure of the larger team. This attitude means that people are more than happy to work parallel to each other, focusing on themselves and not fostering an environment of growth.
As we said before, when people ignore collaboration and team goals, they will never be able to adapt and evolve into something better. This reluctance to adapt is a killer for any business and a reason you should mitigate Silo Mentality.
People Gatekeep Responsibility and are Reluctant to Take Ownership
When people work in a disconnected environment, they become averse to sharing their work and can gatekeep the responsibility of certain tasks.
When working on projects with other teams, however, they quickly shift blame and responsibility onto other people outside of their silo. This would seem to conflict with the previous point, being that if you gatekeep the responsibility of the project, how can the poor result be someone else’s fault?
Regardless of what project is in progress or who’s responsible, the whole point is that different silos don’t want to share anything with each other, whether it be work product or responsibility.
This is a highly toxic trait in the workplace and leads to massive fissures in the ability of people to maintain functioning professional relationships.
Learn more: What is a Kanban?
How to Address Silo Mentality & Improve Communication
Fixing Silo Mentality takes a cultural and organizational shift to have a lasting effect. There are things that you can do on a smaller scale; however, that can greatly impact your team’s ability to climb out of siloed thinking. Here are some strategies that help fix Silo Mentality.
The best way to combat Silo Mentality is through collaboration. Using an online whiteboard, communicating daily, and syncing projects is the best way to break out of Silo Mentality and create an efficient workflow. This software should be implemented company-wide so everyone can access and contribute without restrictions.
Create Communication Channels
Create inter-departmental communication to facilitate connections between teams. Try scheduling events where people can connect or encourage weekly meetings with a new person in the company. Increased communication between teams helps break down unspoked barriers and makes beating Silo Mentality much easier.
Finding Common Ground
When working with Silo Mentality, one of the things that dissuades people from working with each other is the fact that they don’t see any common goals or tasks shared with other teams. Because of this lack of common ground, people feel validated in their isolation and the fact that they can focus strictly on themselves.
To alleviate this discrepancy, create sprint plans that follow the same vision for multiple teams. This means that even when working separately, each team has a unified vision to guide their work. This vision helps bring people together and provides a shared platform to work from.
Create Goal Alignment
Similar to the last point, isolation is an easy trap to fall into when people feel that their work doesn’t impact the rest of the team and they can focus on their personal goals and ignore the shared goals of the business. A way to combat this is by aligning various business goals and personal interests.
Creating contractual incentives for people to work towards company-wide goals can increase people’s motivation to work together and focus on the bigger picture.
Online whiteboards make it incredibly easy to create and track shared goals, and this is a good way to begin transitioning away from Silo Mentality.
Silo Mentality is a critical problem to understand and combat if you are to promote efficiency and collaboration in the workplace. Hopefully, this guide has helped in understanding these problems and finding ways to push back against them.
If you’re looking to defeat your silo mentality but need a tool, check out these mind map advantages for inspiration to use mind maps through IdeaScale Whiteboard.