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Are you working in silos? What it means to work in silos and how to avoid it

If you’ve been coming up against challenges in your organization, or if things are just not going as smoothly as you’d hoped, it could be that you’re working in silos - but what does working in silos mean?

A siloed working environment isn’t uncommon, but it can cause a lot of roadblocks in your business, so in this article, we break down the meaning of working in silos, how to determine if you’re working in silos and how to avoid it to make for a much smoother, more transparent working environment - and trust us, you’ll see the difference!

What is the meaning of working in silos?

The silo mentality has been growing for a long time, and what this essentially means is that teams across an organization or business are failing to communicate otherwise important information to each other.

Now, we’re not saying you need to share every last detail of your team meetings, but these days it is common practice for all teams to come together to give a regular overview of what they’ve been up to, so everyone stays in the loop.

When you’re working in silos, this doesn’t happen - most departments will keep themselves to themselves and therefore you could find you’ve been sailing in the wrong direction for far longer than you should have, simply because no one has spoken to one another about their destination.

What are the dangers of working in silos?

The greater risk with this is silo mentality is when important information is not correctly distributed across the organization, this can lead to all kinds of problems. Here are just a few signs your organization may be operating in silos:

Managers don’t know what’s going on

This is one of the riskiest forms of working in silos. Managers and owners should be staying up to date with what every department is up to and working on for the greater vision of the business. This is not about micro-managing, but about being there to support your teams in the work they do for the business, which includes any external suppliers too. It can be easy to forget about these if they’re not people who are physically in the office every day, but it’s so important to nurture these relationships too.

Things are getting duplicated

There’s nothing worse than completing a task only to be told someone else did that last week. If you’re finding effort is often being duplicated unnecessarily then this could be a symptom of working in silos. When everyone communicates what they’re working on, then you can make sure that everyone’s time is spent valuably and not wasted on the same task.

Things are hard to find

If your team is finding it difficult to find the documents, assets, and resources they need when working on a project, then this can really slow things down and is a clear sign that there’s not enough communication between people. This can be especially frustrating for independent workers when they need to keep asking for things and they’re not able to get the things they need efficiently to carry out the work required.

How to avoid working in silos

Whether it sounds like you could be operating in a siloed work environment, or you simply want to make sure you don’t get to that point, there are some really easy things to implement that will ensure the entire business is kept informed and up to date.

Streamline your communication

When there’s free-flowing communication, there’s no reason for confusion, unexpected delays, or frustrations, so making sure you find a way to collaborate easily and effectively is the most important thing to break down a siloed work environment. We know that having meeting after meeting is not productive, and so this is where technology is your friend. Using a collaboration hub of some kind is a good way to keep all information on a project in one place so that everyone involved knows where they stand.

Clarity around outcomes

Being clear in your mission is also important to ensure everyone is on the same page. You should all be singing from the same hymn sheet and every person involved in a project aware of their responsibilities to move the team towards the greater vision.

For those external to the business such as independent workers or suppliers, there’s nothing more frustrating than being on the outside looking in on a siloed work environment. This often means speaking to different people who have different understandings of what the end goal is.

With that in mind, while it’s good for the entire team to have communication, it’s also best to assign certain people to manage the relationships with third-party suppliers to ensure there are no mixed messages or miscommunication when hiring someone to provide a service.

Bosses should lead by example

Running a business isn’t easy. It’s busy and you’ve probably got a million things on your to-do list, which most of the time don’t get done as you’re in back-to-back meetings most of the day. We feel you. But leading by example is one of the best ways to stamp out any kind of silo work culture in your organization.

Building and managing relationships with your employees, suppliers, and everyone else in your supply channel will pay off, creating a collaborative culture that will become the new norm for your business.

As we’ve said before, the work you do shouldn’t be purely transactional, it should feel like a collaboration, and the better the communication, the better the quality of the outcomes.

Want to know how to create better relationships across your supply channel? Read our article on our 4 do’s and don’ts for managing relationships with service providers.

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