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When Teams Work in Silos

At some level, every manager understands that to deliver great performance they have to unlock the potential in teams. And to do this, they need to turn a collection of individuals into a high-performing group, the members of which support one another.

In other words, managers must be team builders nurturing teams where members share resources, ideas and common goals and also develop a shared identity, often built on a combination of their skill sets and their perceived status in the organization.

Aided by their managers, they can identify a common enemy, usually an external competitor. The team unites to defeat the ‘enemy’.

But in many organizations, this is not so. Teams have a potential down side that we need to examine. It’s termed Silo – an insular group that may do fine work, but doesn’t play well with others. A silo only takes care of its own. Silos can hold back change, impede innovation and cause unnecessary expense.

Below is a quick look at their characteristics:

Team: Shares information

Silo: Guards information

Team: Networks across groups

Silo: Avoids outreach

Team: Common identity

Silo: Common identity

Team: Us and Them

Silo: Us versus Them

Team: Manager’s style is collaborative

Silo: Manager’s style is controlling

It takes just a few wrong turns for a team to become a silo. However, the real challenge here is leadership. A leader expands a group’s horizons and connects the members – the team – to a bigger vision, irrespective of team members’ levels and roles.

In other words, for managers to keep their teams from becoming silos, they have to get members to stop being inward looking and start thinking in terms of the organization as a whole.

The following are some of the ways they can do that:

  • Defining clear roles and goals for team members
  • Acknowledging that people attach to smaller group
  • Encouraging employees to have a problem-solving mindset for all colleagues, not just those on their team
  • Sharing information about the organization’s major strategies and initiatives
  • Sharing successes achieved through team working
  • Giving team members clear direction about priorities
  • Pushing significant decision-making power to team members on the front lines
  • Communicating in all directions — up, down and sideways — in the organization to make certain the team’s collaborative approach is recognized and rewarded

As a manager, for your efforts to be effective,  it’s crucial for your team to have a good understanding of the concepts of team bonding and team efficiency. It’s more productive and fulfilling to lead a collaborative team than to manage silos.

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