As startups grow, silos occur.
Departments separate from one another. Teams stop communicating. Co-workers from another division — whom you got along with in the early days — are reluctant to share information, much to your frustration.
Before you know it, there’s a stack of unsolved problems on your desk.
It comes as no surprise then: Company silos create costly mistakes.
In fact, 97% of employees and executives believe it’s this disconnect within teams that impacts a project’s outcome. Left ignored, these organizational silos lead to a lack of communication and trust between departments and a massive drop in operational efficiency.
So, how do you break down silos in your company?
In this post, I reached out to founders and marketers on their first-hand experiences and what they did specifically to overcome them and spark collaboration in the entire organization.
By the time you finish reading it, you’ll learn how to break down silos to meet strategic goals, boost knowledge retention, and unlock revenue acceleration.
Let’s get right on it.
What Are Silos In Business?
Before we learn how to break down silos, let’s unpack what it means.
In business, these organizational silos refer to departments that run independently from each other — and by independently, we mean without collaboration.
Need an example?
Here’s one: Sales reps and marketers.
If you work in these fields, you’d know these two departments often head-butt with each other.
You know what I’m talking about.
The marketing team blames the salespeople for not hitting their quarterly targets.
The sales department chastises the marketers for bringing in low-quality leads.
And that’s a shame as the sales and marketing department should work together. Ask any Chief Revenue Officer, and they’ll tell you when you break down silos in these two divisions, businesses win more deals.
(By the way, if you’re looking to sync up your marketing and sales teams with lead scoring, sign up for your FREE Breadcrumbs account today.)
This silo mindset affects beyond productivity and employee morale. It also causes financial losses — so much so that Fortune 500 companies lose at least $31.5 billion a year. Who knew a failure of sharing knowledge could spawn such big numbers?
Here’s a shortlist of common warning signs of silos in a company. See if yours made the list:
- Team leaders protecting their departments
- Departments engaging in turf wars. Remember how frustrating it is dealing with power struggles?
- Employees reluctant to work across their individual team and not taking initiative in solving problems
- Teams feeling disconnected (e.g., Task duplication — two different departments working on overlapping tasks unbeknownst to the other party)
Fortunately, that’s where cross-silo management comes in.
It unifies different departments with a shared vision and goals so that everyone can get aligned, collaborate, and execute a project successfully.
Of course, there’s a lot more that goes into this process.
When I asked founders and marketers how they consistently break down silos across their companies, common themes popped up. To make this section actionable, I’ve distilled everything they shared into three surefire tips.
Let’s dive in.
Break Down Silos Tip #1: Start With Leadership
When senior managers communicate a unified vision across departments, employees will naturally do the same.
So to break down silos in your company, your team leaders need to first set an example.
Here’s a real-world example of what I mean.
At DebtHammer, the customer support (CS) department ran independently from other branches of the company.
It took the company years to realize the impact of the problem. Founder Jake Hill shares with Breadcrumbs that he noticed the first red flag when the CS team felt like they were going around in circles, often dealing with disappointed customers.
He explains, “There was always a disconnect between what our customers were struggling with and how other departments were handling on a broad scale.”
One of the things Jake did to break down silos in his company was gathering his senior managers in several customer service sessions to get the full picture of what was happening.
These senior leaders then took the insights back to their respective departments and made sure their teams understood what was going on in their customer’s experience and how they would address it.
By setting an example, these business leaders are (re)creating a collaborative company culture — one where employees from different divisions freely share knowledge, communicate honestly, and work towards the company goals.
Of course, just this executive team alone won’t fully break down silos in a company. It’s a start, but there’s more to it!
This brings us to the next point.
Break Down Silos Tip #2: Build Cross-Functional Teams
There’s no leader without the team.
Set up multi-functional teams to identify issues and propose solutions (e.g., run experiments or limited pilot programs).
Take it a step further with your team collaboration — and hold these groups accountable.
David Ciccarelli, CEO and Founder of Voices.com, recommends having them present at monthly management meetings.
Back in 2019, the online voice-over marketplace was seeing a less-than-ideal customer acquisition growth rate. It was unusual, as it wasn’t like this in the prior years.
David and his team had multiple theories.
Was it because there was a new competitor in town that they haven’t heard of? Or had they reached all customers who were interested in their product? That seemed unlikely… Could it be a bug wreaking unknown havoc on their website?
To break down silos across his company, David formed a management team of representatives from different departments: Sales, marketing, customer support, and product development.
Together, this cross-functional team evaluated the customer journey and conducted a win-loss analysis.
It was an extensive process. Through the analysis and customer interviews, they discovered the common reasons why customers didn’t buy from them: The sign up form was too long.
“We found that usability on the registration form was lacking. For instance, we required too many fields. Since switching them to optional, we’ve seen an increase in form completions,” David explains.
After uncovering these friction points and making the necessary changes, David and his team grew their new customer acquisition annual target by 35%.
Break Down Silos Tip #3: Prioritize Information Sharing With Collaborative Tools
So far, we’ve covered how leadership and cross-functional teamwork play prominent roles in breaking down silos in a company.
In our third tip, we’ll talk about the last missing puzzle: Technology.
Without the right management tools in place, no one can work efficiently.
Just picture it, your co-workers from different divisions constantly messaging you on Slack for the same information. That’s a major time suck!
A knowledge-sharing platform or a collaborative tool can solve this problem. Invest in a proper one, and you’ll:
- Promote transparency
- Create a collaborative environment where there’s a free flow of information
- Optimize your process (i.e., you don’t have to share the same old information again and again, as everyone has easy access to them)
One great example is Notion — a project management tool that’s helped AdChina.io save a massive chunk of time (employees save a few hours every week) and get more organized.
Before using Notion, the teams at AdChina.io were spending a lot of time sharing information.
Seema Nayak, SEO and Content Marketing Manager, shares, “We sometimes set up a call to answer the questions. This was causing frustration on both ends as it leads to distraction and disrupts deep work.”
Instead of defaulting to Slack for sharing information — which, according to Seema, can get lost quickly with all the noise — using Notion allows them to document everything in a central hub.
Word of advice: Moving this information to a knowledge-sharing platform will be a monumental task. Do it anyway, because in the long term, it’ll save you a lot of time and energy.
Pro Tip: As you shop around for these collaborative tools, focus on those with integration.
When you view tasks from a unified lens (made possible by integrative tools), you’ll see the entire project as a whole — in other words, you’ll see it as being greater than the sum of its parts.
Kimberly Smith, Marketing Manager at Clarify Capital, adds, “It becomes easier to understand that achieving a common goal requires efficient interactions between departments.”
How Will You Break Down Silos In Your Company?
Cross silo management is the key to ensuring a holistic view across your different departments: Marketing, sales, product, customer support, customer success, you name it.
Without it, you run the risk of running your business with siloed teams. You’ll alienate employees from one another, damage productivity, or — knock on wood — create a financial loss in the company.
Let’s do a quick recap!
To break down silos in your company, you should:
- Start with leadership — have your senior management set an example for individual employees
- Build cross-functional teams to identify problems and create key initiatives
- Prioritize information sharing with collaborative tools and progress towards goals
Do all three in the entire company, and you’ll banish siloed thinking for good.
Silos break businesses. And they’re often seen in marketing and sales. Do you see a disconnect between these teams? It’s time to break down silos in these two departments with lead scoring and maximize growth. Create your FREE account on Breadcrumbs today.