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Break down organizational silos

Break down organizational silos

“Siloed” organizations, which used to be highly effective, prove less relevant in today’s complex environments. How can we avoid the downside of an organizational model in which we had previously found so many qualities?


Many businesses are divided into “silos,” that is, separate departments that focus primarily on their own objectives rather than those of the organization as a whole.

Although they are widely criticized today, these silos were originally created to support organizational choices based on past experience. They allow businesses to assign teams to tackle major challenges, such as excelling in a specific business line or success in a given market. When Sony decided to deploy a business unit organization in 1993, these entities significantly reduced costs and increased margins, multiplying profits by 13 in just four years! This model also fosters employee empowerment and engagement by addressing the instinctive human desire to belong to a tribe with shared codes and objectives.

However, this autonomy often comes at the price of strong compartmentalization. Information stays largely within a given silo, and teams don’t know how to work together, or may even act as rivals. This hinders both learning and the ability to join forces to innovate or conduct a concerted strategy—qualities that have become essential in today’s fast-moving business environment.

This is why many business leaders now feel the need to “break down organizational silos,” i.e., to lead business units to cooperate to achieve common goals. That being said, people generally do not easily give up the comfort and power conferred by autonomy! To address this challenge, experts recommend acting in 3 ways:

- Unite people around shared goals and challenges, by making units jointly responsible for clear and tangible objectives.

- Build bridges between units, by encouraging employees to establish interpersonal bonds and structuring the sharing of information.

- Facilitate spontaneous cooperation. Once people become better acquainted and pursue shared goals, they are often well-placed to identify the most effective ways to join forces.

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