There’s a beast lurking in many organizations. It can tear an organization to shreds from the inside out, quietly and quickly.
No, I’m not talking about some horror movie. I’m referring to silo mentality. It’s a growing problem for many organizations. A recent study of senior executives showed that “only 25% of respondents described their organizations as ‘effective’ at sharing knowledge across boundaries.”
While silo mentality may be common, it’s not healthy. It’s a problem that could drastically slow business growth in the digital age.
But there is a solution to silo mentality that is accessible to every organization and leaders across the globe. Before we get to the solution, let’s discuss the problem.
What is Silo Mentality?
Silo mentality is the mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not want to share information with others in the same organization.
Just like at a farm, silos in organizations hold resources that are separated by types. In the farming community, it’s important to protect resources from the outside elements but in business, silos end up causing delayed projects, low morale and increased costs.
Most leaders want to blame silo mentality on the employees themselves. But silo mentality is often to the result of poor leadership, communication and management.
Most silos form when employees develop a greater sense of loyalty to their individual team or department than loyalty to the organization. While team loyalty is not necessarily a bad thing, it can be disruptive when the needs of the company as a whole become secondary to the needs of the closest team members.
Managers and leaders must encourage a culture of collaboration, communication and ownership. If managers and leaders spend their time pointing fingers, hiding information or not taking ownership of their mistakes, then that mentality will trickle down into their teams, as well!
Silo mentality has many disruptive side effects. It can cause groupthink, stereotyping, redundancies and duplicative efforts between departments, and a misunderstanding of strategy. These effects can cause increased project costs, missed deadlines and low morale.
But the most damaging side effect is that the customer suffers when silo mentality exists in an organization. Most jobs within organizations have specific roles and responsibilities. When a task or issue occurs that “doesn’t fit the job description” in a siloed workforce, the task is usually tossed to the next person. This can occur several times over and the person who suffers the most is the person who had the issue in the first place: the customer.
Companies that suffer from silo mentality will lose customers and therefore profits due to the inefficiencies caused by it. Organizations have started trying to eliminate silo mentality by encouraging a service-oriented approach and cross-functional collaboration. And luckily, there is a more formal method to these tactics that leaders can take. It’s called Enterprise Service Management and it might sound a little bit familiar to you.
What is Enterprise Service Management?
Enterprise service management (ESM) describes the application of service management principles and technologies beyond just IT and across an organization. ESM applies service management principles to other areas of an organization to improve performance, measurability, effectiveness, responsiveness, and efficiency.
Does this sound familiar to you? Well, it should if you’ve been around this blog before! ESM mirrors what good ITSM practices accomplish, except on a larger scale.
Of course, you may be thinking that you can just take your existing ITSM processes and systems and simply apply them across the organization. It doesn’t exactly work like that.
ESM is much more than applying IT processes and principles outside of IT. It’s a holistic way of including and blending individual departmental approaches into common and shared processes, systems and technology across the organization.
It requires organizational change just as much as a technological change. It requires strong leadership, clearly articulated vision and business goals, and clear communication and collaboration between departments.
With ESM, the organization develops a holistic approach to integrate, connect and work together to leverage technology by creating processes, systems and workflows that benefit both the company and the customer.
How Can ESM Defeat Silo Mentality?
This is where silo mentality will begin to break down through ESM. By implementing ESM, the organization doesn’t need to just adapt to IT processes and systems. It’s not about IT (or any part of an organization for that matter) having its own set of processes and systems and expecting the rest of the organization to align to those processes. Rather, it’s about getting all parts of the organization having a shared understanding of business value and how the parts of the business interact to deliver value to the customer.
With ESM, every department must be represented in the development of more efficient workflows and processes that better enable the use of technology and eliminate any obstacles that exist between departments. Including each department in these activities develops buy-in to what will work best for the organization. This buy-in makes it easier for ESM implementation and it also correctly positions IT to understand how each department uses technology, how they view it, what they need from it, and align those needs to organizational goals.
For any of this to work, one of the first things the organization needs to do is to speak the same language. The problem many departments run into is that they don’t understand the specific terminology used within each department. For example, an “incident” for IT is very different than an “incident” for facilities.
Leaders need to work with their managers and teams to integrate their teams so they can begin to understand one another. One way is by incorporating job shadowing days where team members can spend time learning about another department. Another way may be to host knowledge sharing meetings where departments share their current projects and its impact on the business and effect on customers. Increasing communication and transparency between departments helps everyone begins to understand how each team contributes to the organization.
Once your team speaks the same language and you being to implement shared practices, processes, and technology across the organization, silo mentality will begin to fade. After all, the barriers that resulted from having separate practices, processes and technologies will be blended into a shared approach, which is how the organization should interact anyway.
How To Implement ESM into Your Organization?
One of the best ways is to start small with a single workflow that involves different departments.
For example, the workflow that supports onboarding a new employee involves the human resources, IT, corporate security, and facilities departments. Pull together representatives from each of these departments and agree on the critical success factors for onboarding a new employee. Map the work that is done by each department when a new employee is hired. Review what information is needed by each department as they do that work. This will begin to identify the dependencies and sequences of work between these departments. Map the flow of work among these departments that would result in the best result for both the new employee and the impacted departments. Identify and define measures that indicate that the workflow will meet the agreed critical success factors. Now map how and where technology supports this workflow. Small projects like these can create an environment that is open to organization wide enterprise service management roll outs.
Remember ESM won’t be rolled out overnight and it may not be met with open arms by everyone in the organization. Continue to identify supporters who are open to new projects, learn to speak the language of the business and keep your ears open for feedback and ideas from other departments. Remember, ending silo mentality starts from the top!Share