Innovation, collaboration, and agility cannot thrive in a siloed work environment. When one department isn't working with another, it holds everyone back.

Unfortunately, silos are a common blight for today's companies--especially in larger, more traditional businesses. They are often the side effect of rapid growth, office politics, or an overall lack of transparency and communication across the company.

But if you're going to survive in today's increasingly digital landscape, you need to break down the internal, invisible walls that are dividing your company--and you need to do it quickly. Why? Because smaller, leaner startups are out there and they're plotting ways to disrupt your industry as we speak. The employees of these agile startups can work together like a special ops military task force, and with the right innovative idea and strategic execution they can take down a siloed Goliath any day of the week.

So, if you're ready to tear down walls and create a unified front to better serve your customers and stop the competition in their tracks, here's what you need to do:

Put an end to office politics

Lines are often drawn in the sand when departments feel threatened by one another. For whatever reason, instead of collaborating, one team may feel like another team is going to steal their jobs. The SEO department might feel threatened by the UX team and will hide important project details to keep UX from stealing their work. This all needs to stop.

While this is often easier said than done, business leaders can now harness the power of data to put an end to office politics. When your company is digital, you can align job roles and responsibilities to key metrics. You are then able to hold your employees accountable to the numbers--in addition to each other. You may even find employees are more willing to work together when they all need to meet certain objectives and metrics.

Set up an ambassador program

To maintain diplomatic relations with the rest of the world, the U.S. sends ambassadors or diplomats to live in other countries as our representatives. So, why don't we use this same premise in large business settings?

Each department could send a representative to go and sit with another department across the organization for a few days or even a week. This person could gather key insights into the operations of that department while sharing insight about what their team is working on. The cross-pollination could yield innovative solutions or products and improve working relationships across the organization.

Re-imagine the workplace

For years offices functioned by grouping department with department, team with team, and sectioning them off in clusters of cubicles and offices to one designated area of the building. Second floor is accounting, third floor is marketing--and so on. But this type of setup immediately sets the everyday tone that your departments have clear and distinct territories, which encourages silos.  

While creating a strictly open-floor-plan office isn't the answer, there is something to be said about the collaborative environment it promotes. When you get people out of the cubicles and create opportunities for cross-department connections, you're essentially creating an atmosphere where innovation can flourish.

And aside from the logistics of the physical work environment, consider re-imagining the digital work environment as well. The first step would be to go paperless. You can do this through project management solutions like Basecamp and Asana, which can make it easier for teams to work together no matter where they are in the building, country, or world.

Final word

A business divided cannot stand--especially when agile startups are out there, drawing up plans to disrupt your industry. To beat them at their own game and to innovate effectively in today's fast-paced business world, your entire company needs to be united across the board. Start tearing down the silos in your organization today--before it's too late.

Published on: May 11, 2018