​How to break down silos and build participation

​How to break down silos and build participation through cross pollinating teams

The ‘Us and Them’ culture is businesses biggest productivity destroyer. As a responsible leader, you try to sort out problems only to discover it’s the relationship between teams and departments that are the problem. And it’s a tough problem to fix. So, how can we change a blame culture and move from conflict to collaboration?

Why do silos exist?

When things aren’t working as well as they should, we all have a tendency to blame others. You know what it’s like, you walk into a team meeting and hear, “If only they didn’t do that!” or “We get held up because of them!”. Sound familiar? Why is our default position to blame another function or department? And can we fix the relationship between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ to work more effectively together? I believe we can.

Part of the problem here is that it’s so much easier to blame ‘Them’ than to fix the problem. But in the long run, it’s a far better investment to improve relationships between different parts of the organisation. In my opinion, broken relations is one of the biggest productivity destroyers that businesses face today. So, we need to break the silos by creating cross functional teams – and the key to this is producing shared goals.

Do silos kill productivity?

When you create cross functional teams with a shared goal, silos are broken down. And when people work together, bonds are formed. In turn, this creates empathy which replaces conflict. That’s quite compelling. But can participation in a shared purpose actually increase productivity? Yes, it can. If you want to increase productivity across your business, then changing the ‘Us and Them’ culture, and fixing broken relations between departments, is an absolute must.

Business advantages of cross pollinating teams

If you’re not already sold on the productivity benefit, I’ve distilled three further business advantages to investing in cross pollinating teams that you can bring to your organisation – right now.

1. Improve creativity

When you create a team that consists of a variety of functions and roles, new perspectives are surfaced. This often leads to greater creativity because the team hears and understands these new perspectives – learning about problems from a different angle.

It also raises ‘naive questions’ from people with other skills that help the team rethink why they do something which they now take for granted. This means they can approach problems anew, with a ‘beginner’s mind’, which breeds creativity. Imagine if you only ever heard the sound of your own voice, and your own opinion. Instead, collaborative teams sharing in a goal with a mix of views and voices can stop the echo chamber which might otherwise prevail.

2. Change competitive to collaborative

Once you remove the barriers that silos create, you’ll find that the attitude quickly shifts from competitive to collaborative. In my experience, with shared goals, teams are more open to learning from each other and it’s in this attitudinal shift that individuals move from a fixed to a growth mindset.

For example, if teams are encouraged to work with different areas of the business – towards the same goal – they begin to understand their strengths and challenges. It’s through this collaboration that respect is born and competitive attitudes are quashed. Empathy replaces conflict.

3. Strengthen community

The added value of cross pollinating teams is the greater sense of community it brings. When your teams are aligned around shared organisational goals, it means everyone gains a more complete understanding of the business and its strengths.

In contrast, when silos exist, we become obsessed with our own area, our own challenges and our own success. But if you can create a business culture where problems are fixed together through creativity, shared activities and learning, there’s no place for ‘Us’ and ‘Them’. Everyone is committed to doing what’s best for the whole, not just their bit. And that’s something worth investing in.

If you’re ready to change the narrative and fight the real problem, download our latest white paper to learn more about cross pollinating teams in What’s the point of innovation without participation? How to unlock a culture of ‘Innovation Everywhere’ without risking it all.

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