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Preventing your Company from Becoming "Siloed"

By Barbara Beauregard   |    September 24, 2015   |    11:19 AM

It's natural for startups to evolve from “everybody does a little of everything” to developing specialized sections such as marketing, finance, operations, etc. But you don't want these divisions to work completely separate from each other and become "siloed". Here's how to prevent a silo effect and keep every department working together.

Resolve conflict and define a unified vision:

Experts agree that the silo effect often stems from a conflicted leadership team and unresolved issues within start ups. Although it may be easy to dismiss start up problems as resulting from other factors such as lack of staff training or inability to get along, more often than not these issues are not the root cause but part of a larger problem. Workers need to feel that they are working towards a common goal, not in competition but in unison with one another. If problems arise between departments or individuals that misalign then it is the responsibility of the leadership team to recognize these and provide unifying solutions. The leadership team must share a homogeneous vision of how to resolve issues and have a single long-term view. A unified leadership team inspires trust in employees allowing them to go beyond thinking about "their department” to believing in “our business”.

Ensure that staff and departments remain flexible and fluid:

It is important to ensure that staff and departments do not become territorial or restricted by their own ideas and roles. Notions such as: 'I own this area', 'this is not within my job description', 'what do they know about my area?' are more often than not detrimental. It is positive that staff take pride in their responsibilities of their role. However if these ideas are taken to the extreme this can result in narrow-mindedness and failure to acknowledge feedback from others outside their department. Failing to share information can also impact client satisfaction. While someone may be very knowledgeable about a function's best practices, if an individual starts to identify too deeply with one role and area of expertise it may lead to them becoming closed-off and contemptuous of alternative views from those outside their area. Individuals should feel they have ownership and authorship over their direct functional areas. Yet they must retain a unified vision of sharing the start up with others so as to remain open to all ideas no matter who's they are.

Rowing the boat as one team:

Some employees may develop an unwavering devotion to their job description but it is important that you make them see their accountability for all startup metrics, from overall staff satisfaction to small business reputation, and ultimately that they feel involved in the future of the startup at all those levels. Management will need to ensure that individuals are held accountable on multiple tiers. Your employees need to be guided towards executing their direct functional responsibilities as well as towards contributing to the overarching successes of their department and your small business start up. They must feel willing to support their colleagues and their direct functional efforts. Remind your employees that cooperation is key and that rowers win races not just because one person rows better than others but due to the combined efforts of a team!