Breaking Workplace Silos through Effective Knowledge Sharing

Imagine going to a doctor for a diagnosis and they say, "I know the cure but I won't prescribe it." You will first question their sanity and react, "Then what's the use of your degree and all the knowledge you have!"

Similarly, when an employee becomes the Gandalf and does not let the information pass, it acts against its team and the larger goal of an organization. This is particularly known as the Silo Mentality. While the one half of the coin shows people as a part of the problem, the other side shows the process as a reason for the silo mentality to arise. This is believed to be the hurdle in achieving the organizational goals by almost 70% of the executives in every industry.

Once upon a time, in a far far away land when we said, "Too many cooks spoil the broth" we went and divided the work by establishing a decentralized system that works in favour of the organization. As decentralization leads to faster execution of work, dedicated specialised talent and a disciplined flow of duties. This offer is quite appealing but it comes with a T&C applied like all the best offers.

The hierarchy of work often leads to tunnel-vision, incoherent working patterns and hoarding of information.

To actually live up to the dynamic and cutting-edge culture promised in the About section on Linkedin, the organizations need to be mindful of the unconscious state of the silo mentality that takes a life of its own.

When a Rahul sets out to achieve their monthly target, the unified goal of an organization loses its significance. The employees will eventually start to lose their way when employees don't know what value they are putting in. They feel like they are heading towards direction without a cause. This is also a big contributor to the Great Resignation we are hearing and feeling around us.

The new Netflix docuseries, Downfall: The Case against Boeing, highlights the time when McDonnel Douglas, a major aerospace manufacturing corporation, merged with Boeing. There was a massive shift in management and their way of working. Boeing was known as an Engineers led company focusing on safety and ingenuity for many decades. Soon after the merger, a corporate structure was placed, the management was changed and Boeing's engineers were siloed to just being the mechanical hands without any purpose. The management would do the thinking. There was no free flow of information from the engineers to management. With a massive organization as such, we do not expect the engineers to have water cooler conversations with the senior management on a daily basis. But the sheer lack of effort to establish a common purpose is one of the reasons that led to the loss of reputation and human life in the 737 Max crash crisis.

In such an extremely undesirable outcome one can't help but study the patterns and methods leading to the fateful occurrence. The Silo culture does not just affect individuals but teams' identity, organizational ethos, value proposition(inward-looking), product or/and services, relation with its customers, partners, and stakeholders (outward-looking). The customer decline and quality compromisation affect operations in a value chain disrupting the customer experience journey.

In times like now where hybrid to completely remote working is becoming the norm, reductionist hierarchical management style would mean going back to the stone age. Today, the needs of an organization are too complex for redundant policies to work. The book called Team of Teams by former General Stanley McChrystal explains how the traditional command and control structures used in the US Military were outdated and no longer fit for practice. A new and adaptive style of integrating the goals between the chains of command was seen to be more effective. This came to be known as the Team of Teams strategy.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the organisations are far more robust and dynamic in nature than before. The pesky silos would eat inside the culture of the company and it must be fumigated. The Team of Teams strategy lays down the following ways that could become an HR Manager's guide to breaking Workplace silos:

1) Establishing a common purpose and Workplace collaboration

The mission and vision statement are often discussed superficially and frequently without anybody realising their potential. The teams sitting at different geographical locations or working from their homes might easily lose sight of the value they provide. There needs to be a strong culture of collaboration and a shared goal. Everybody is aware of their individual responsibilities, their role and their potential.

2) Transparency is the best policy

For different teams to work together, they need to know every team's functions and operations. This will help them have a clear picture of what each team will contribute to the common goal. This also helps to understand the larger picture or a bigger objective.

3) Free flow of information and knowledge

Bhvye has established that 20% of the employees waste their time searching for information known to a colleague. To cater to this, Bhvye as a platform act as a knowledge-sharing hub within employees. Now through a different lens, imagine if a company's sales are affected by its poor product design and the sales team holds on to that information, the product might not be improved and suited to customers' expectations. So, sharing of information is important for both, to gather knowledge from a colleague as well as for crucial business numbers that lead to improved services.

In 2006, Ford Motor Company took the biggest hit, with a $12.7 billion loss. When everybody saw such a prestigious name go down there was no way they were going to pull themselves out. It is at such times when former CEO Alan Mulally established a common goal of "We are in this together" to lift the lost spirits of the employees. He made them see a bigger picture and the profound value they would provide. By 2014, when Mullaly retired, Ford had become a benchmark for turnaround stories and the tales you would tell in your marketing and leadership lectures.

Alan Mullaly, probably, sensed the silo mentality coming from a mile away and took timely measures to bend them into a culture where a company would flourish. The silo mentality is sometimes subdued and often missed. Making use of platforms like Bhvye will ensure the free-flowing of information within the team and across different departments.