'Silos': Just Another Communication Barrier
This blog post is by Shannon Sullivan, Director of Strategic Planning; you can read more about Shannon and learn how to contact her here.
Many of our clients at Mission + Strategy want to address 'silos' or 'silo-ing' as part of their planning or conflict resolution processes. It's something all of us hear about all the time — the need to 'break down silos' for greater impact. Usually our clients are right, they do have silos that are negatively impacting their ability to fulfill their mission, or ones that could do so in the future. But it's important to note and think about the fact that silos do naturally occur within organizations as they grow. Whether your staffing structure groups staff together by content areas (e.g., development, programs, finance, etc.) or by projects, these teams of staff will need to operate as a unit and somewhat separately from other units to accomplish their work. These are your silos.
This natural team-based process becomes an issue for your impact when these silos lead to internal communications barriers. Internal communications deficits can lead to the much larger issues of competition, territorialism, and resentment — in these scenarios, teams are no longer motivated to work toward a unified vision of impact and may even be actively sabotaging the work of other teams. While this can certainly be addressed during planning or conflict resolution, leadership would benefit from proactively evaluating teams/units as they develop and quickly identifying any communications barriers coming from these silos. Fixing internal communications barriers as or before they arise, through changed processes, goal development/monitoring, changes in how and when staff meet and plan together, etc., will prevent our natural silos from becoming serious organizational issues.