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Posted at: Oct 31, 2018, 12:46 AM; last updated: Oct 31, 2018, 12:46 AM (IST)MANAGER’S DESK

Break away from silo thinking

Rajeev Shroff

Have you heard about the 'Functional Silo Syndrome'? In a team of five members, when one individual shoulders all the responsibility voluntarily and refuses to seek help or divulge project details. Or on the floor when everyone is engaged in a ‘team building activity’, but this one team member will be sitting in his/her cubicle furiously typing away an email and complaining about all the ‘noise’ occurring in the name of bonding. 

Myth: If you are independent, you are more susceptible to becoming a loner. 

Reality: Alienation (by any means) will cause you stress and adversely affect your health. 

Business Dictionary defines ‘Silo thinking’ as a mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. Carelessly tossed around for the past three decades, this situation does not originate at the bottom of the corporate ladder. Rather, it is said to trickle down from the top. 

It is said that “leadership is not a position or a title. It is action and example”.  Organisations have been trying to implement various means to eliminate silos at the workplace. How can you as a manager help in changing the silo mentality? 

Work towards unifyingthe team

Address the issues that are central to the organisation. Encourage employees to align themselves with the same vision. As their leader, steer the wheel with conviction and lead by example. Support cross-departmental collaboration for various projects and activities. The goals of all employees must be aligned in the direction of general progress of the organisation and not just be limited to the fulfilment of their individual departmental objectives.

Consistency in acknowledging efforts

Once a common goal has been discerned, motivate your team members. Identify what drives each one and leverage it to help shape up the career growth. Annual bonusses and incentives go a long way; so does everyday recognition. 

Initiate conversations that do not revolve around work. People often seek the solace in silos when they feel ‘left out’. Ever considered having an informal work buddy system? Mentoring done at each one’s discretion. 

Introduce job rotation on project basis

Alienation can also occur when individuals end up working on the same thing, far too long. Encourage your team to think outside their circle, push their comfort zones, explore possibilities, and tap into their hidden potentials. Stimulate their thinking in different directions. It will allow them to gain a holistic perspective of the work, as well as the organisation. 

Evoke curiosity and add value 

One of the most tried and tested initiatives that aids breaking down silo thinking, is an information-led learning intervention. Pick a topic and invite seniors from within the organisation, across departments, as well as even group companies to facilitate a workshop. 

Simultaneously, strive to institute an online learning portal, where individuals can enrol free of cost for short-term learning courses, across subjects. The more food for thought you provide, lesser will be the need for solidarity. 

An individual can’t fight this battle alone where coordination as well as communication both get equally affected. Organisations have now understood that investing in building a healthy work culture is also a continuous learning process. 

Shattering the silo mentality is undoubtedly tough. But providing each one their own space to work while taking preventive measures with engagement activities that involve every single individual is crucial. With sustained effort from the management and constant support from peers, it is possible to change that mindset. 

The ‘What’s on your mind’ approach?

Engrossed in our work lives, we often tend to miss out on one of the most hazardous silos — The emotional silo. Sometimes, it’s the fear of rejection that manifests into self-esteem issues and in-turn lead to sub-conscious isolation. 

Yes, it is a little difficult to identify, there are hardly any symptoms. But the moment you see a peer lost deep in thought for far too long; and this does not hint towards procrastination — ask what’s troubling them.

Nurture a set of common and measurable goals

Once the employees come together, direct them towards a common goal. Communicate with transparency, be approachable and engage your peers in the process of decision-making. Establish a time frame to measure these goals and set benchmarks to achieve it. During everyday trainings and group huddles, ensure that every individual is given an equal opportunity to opine. Having a clear line of communication fosters trust and confidence.

— The writer is a Transformation Coach & Consultant, and founder of Cupela

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