Silo vs interconnected departments

How do we get maximum efficiency with the same resources?

Within many hierarchical corporations such as those within the manufacturing sector, you can very often observe within a day or so, by being inside those corporations, that the inter-dependant departments do not effectively operate as if they are all the same company. Unfortunately, it is all too common place, even in our hyper-connected world that we now live in.


For example, how often have you experienced a clash in what the purchasing departments want to do, verses what the operations team want to do, or clash with IT, or quality or any other supporting functions?


Within large teams, this is very often the case, as many factors contribute to this siloed way of thinking. Maybe different contradictory KPIs are in place that force departments to clash, many the managers of each teams do get on and want to outperform each other at the detriment of the whole, or many it is just as simple as the fact that they are located separately from each other and therefore are seen as ‘then enemy’.


Regardless of what the reasons are for teams not effectively working together to complement each other, there are a few standard approaches that can be taken to try to maximise collaboration over individual teams performance.


To start with, ensure that each team within the organisation clearly understand what role they play in providing maximum success to the company as a whole. For instance, the sourcing and supply team’s role is to buy the best quality raw materials, at the highest quality in order for the operations to manufacture with.


Now let’s break this down for just a second, let’s say for example that the sourcing and supply team have been tasked with finding cost savings of £250,000 in the next quarter, what would they do? They might choose to go with a cheaper supplier, with an inferior product, but which ultimately helps them to hit their cost saving targets.


However, once the production teams start to use this new cheaper product, they find that their breakdowns increased by 12% ultimately costing them £1,000,000 per quarter. Then the production manager comes down hard on the production teams for missing deadlines, and the lack of communication between the two departments that already exists just gets bigger due the new frustrations.


Now let’s examine what we said earlier “the sourcing and supply team’s role is to buy the best quality raw materials, at the highest quality in order for the operations to manufacture with”. If the manufacturing team can’t manufacture with the materials that the sourcing and supply team provide, the company as a whole suffers, but the sourcing and supply team are happy because they have hit their targets.


It’s no wonder siloed teams are so prevalent within our organisations. When complexity increases, so does a lack of co-operation and inter-departmental frustration.


So then how to change this? Below, a just a few things to remember that lead to more productive and interconnected teams, which ultimately leads to greater company success.

1. Make sure each department understands what role they have within the larger company. Who depends on them? Who do they depend on? Who are there customers, supplier (both internally and externally)?

2. Eliminate conflicting KPIs. Does the team’s success depend on other teams’ failures? How can KPIs be re-structured to accommodate/eliminate this? Can one department help to achieve the goals of another? How is that communicated and supported?

3. Encourage cross functional working. It doesn’t need the managers to sit down together, if a team member across each department can do it instead. Encourage inter-departmental working wherever possible.

4. Encourage ‘big picture thinking’. Actively demonstrate how working together can break down those imagined silos and contribute to greater overall business success.


By encouraging active interdepartmental working and instilling a collaborative approach, a company that is used to working in silos can be transformed to be one of interconnectivity and greater efficiency.