Does your company have silos ?

silos 04A Silo mind-set is a mentality sometimes present in companies when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information [collaborate] with others in the same company. This type of mentality reduces the efficiency of the overall operation, reduces morale, and contributes to the demise of a productive company culture[1]

The most obvious symptom a company has silos is departments doing things normally under the responsibility of other departments e.g. the Business developing their own IT tools (end user computing/tactical tools), IT defining business cases, … This is usually done to avoid to interact with the department officially in charge to provide that service and may be due to multiple reasons: excessive delays, heavy procedures and methodology, poor communication, unwritten tradition, culture and habits, politics, …

“Responsibilities are implicitly replicated”

The necessary transversality to circumvent silos is very hard to achieve below the “sponsorship ceiling” i.e. the higher level in your line of hierarchy that effectively supports you. Your chances of success are proportional to your sponsorship “ceiling” height. It is first necessary to raise the sponsorship ceiling to then be able silos

to cross effectively silos barriers. If your role in the organisation is too low to influence effectively your sponsors or if your are simply not listened to, then all is almost lost.

“Transversality is hard to achieve below the sponsorship ceiling”

Your last chance to achieve a result is to go “underground” and leverage your unofficial network (parallel market) which extent depends mainly on the time you already spent in the company and on the human relations you have built with colleagues throughout the various company departments. Practically by by-passing the official organisation structure.

“New collaborators means to achieve ends are extremely thin”

But in that case where is the value ? on what is efficiency actually based ? People and the human relational fabric they have built is the answer. This fact is largely unknown to senior management or at best underestimated but often constitutes the essence of the effectiveness and efficiency of a company. This is of course not ideal.

“Efficiency practically lies with people and their web of relations”

So when facing all these anti-patterns i.e. facing silos, suffering from a low sponsorship ceiling, having little means at your disposal and a reduced “unofficial” network, the only way out to achieve a result is to recreate in your control zone the missing resource and thus unintentionally contributing to silos perpetuation.

“silos engender silos, it is a vicious circle”

But all this is only possible if the “environment” is permissive i.e. not too restrictive or rigid in the application of the official roles description, especially if what you want to address is slightly off your defined role. And this is crucial to the pseudo-equilibrium of a “silo-ed” company functioning. Note that under those circumstances, a stricter application of official roles would have disastrous effects.

Official organisational roles are too vague or not effectively applied

If your company has silos and is nevertheless still macroscopically profitable then the above is de-facto implied. One could be tempted to say that silos is not a problem after all if the company is profitable ? that would be a very short-sighted statement. Proper company governance requires to know where and how Value is produced, and that it most of all should not rely solely and implicitly on individuals but mainly on effective documented repeatable processes and methodology. Especially if staff turnover is high.

“”Silo-ed” companies are at risk even when profitable

So in summary here is a quick way to assess your company situation regarding silos:

  • Are departments collaborating efficiently ?
  • How high is your sponsorship ceiling ?
  • Are responsibilities implicitly replicated ?
  • Do you often exceed your official responsibilities ?
  • Do you often leverage your “unofficial” network ?
  • Do you often bypass the official organisation ?

If the answers to these questions are no, low, yes, yes, yes, yes there are strong signals that your company is in a sub-optimal functioning mode due to silos and needs to transform to remain profitable.

[1] Silo mentality,

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