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    Why Communication Silos Are the Ultimate Business Growing Pain

    By: Matt Kanaskie
    July 2, 2019

    How to get your people talking

    Today’s business lesson comes from Pink Floyd’s “Keep Talking.” Give it a listen and you’ll realize that David Gilmour’s brilliant lyrics are almost spot-on to the pitfalls of communication silos in business:


    For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals

    Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination

    We learned to talk

    There's a silence surrounding me

    I can't seem to think straight

    I sit in the corner

    And no one can bother me

    I think I should speak now

    Why won't you talk to me?

    I can't seem to speak now

    You never talk to me.

    My words won't come out right

    What are you thinking?

    I feel like I'm drowning

    What are you feeling?

    I'm feeling weak now

    Why won’t you talk to me?

    But I can't show my weakness

    You never talk to me.

    I sometimes wonder

    What are you thinking?

    Where do we go from here

    What are you feeling?

    It doesn't have to be like this

    All we need to do is make sure we keep talking


    The key to happiness, prosperity and togetherness—in life and in business—is summed up in that song. Talking! However, this basic communication skill becomes impeded by the dreaded silo effect, particularly in larger organizations.

    Individual teams and departments might do a decent job of communicating internally, but their collaboration doesn’t always reach the ears, eyes and hearts of colleagues in different departmental silos. Forbes agrees, saying “A communication silo occurs when teams talk exclusively amongst themselves at the expense of big picture company goals. It can result in uncoordinated product shipments, misinformed marketing decisions, and poor customer support.”

    Patrick Lencioni also concurs in his book, Silos, Politics and Turf Wars,” citing that “Silos – and the turf wars they enable – devastate organizations. They waste resources, kill productivity, and jeopardize the achievement of goals.”

    Let’s not live just like the animals. Let’s keep talking.

    OK, you’ve acknowledged that your organization suffers from communication silos. You’ve decided to do something about it. Now what?

    6 steps to breaking down those soundproof silo walls

    There are as many remedies for solving communication problems as there are grain silos on a country landscape. That’s because the dynamics, culture and objectives of every company are so unique. However, there are six sure-fire tactics that apply to just about any organization.

    1. Make clear(er) communication a company-wide goal

    Silhouettes with communication bubbles above themThe decision to take the first step starts at the top. ALL leadership must be on board with the objective in a crystal clear and collaborative way.

    Unified leadership will trickle down to department heads and every staffer, creating trust, participation and yes, even excitement. It’ll break people out of the “my department” mentality and into the “our company” mindset.

    Once the anti-silo decision has been made, the word has to get out that everyone will be working together toward achieving the common goal. The “kickoff” can take whatever form works best for a company’s size and culture. Maybe it’s a company-wide team-building retreat, or an all-office video conference.

    I recommend making it as much of an event as possible, because this is big! And its success depends on a robust kickstart. It’s not something you just simply announce in a mass email or company newsletter.

    2. Identify clogs in horizontal communication

    Those vertical silos need to play nice with all the other departmental entities. Marketing needs to talk to sales, which needs to talk to production, which needs to talk to engineering, which needs to talk to R&D, etc., etc., etc.

    Imagine that between all the respective vertical silos, there are horizontal pipes that everyone talks through. And they’re clogged. Nobody hears nothin’. So, executive and departmental leadership need to unclog the pipes by asking some fundamental questions like, “What behaviors need to change to accomplish our goal?” and, “What barriers need to be broken down to achieve change?”

    Get these and other elementary questions answered and agreed upon by the leadership team before moving on to step 3.

    3. Pick point people

    Select specific individuals as communication conduits between departments and project teams. Choose wisely, and use them consistently! You want point people who are empathetic, patient, likable, trustworthy and more than anything: effective communicators.

    Point people will inspire enthusiastic, efficient cross-team dialogue—versus the collective, company-wide sigh that typically accompanies periods of corporate and cultural change.

    4. Meet regularly, but quickly

    Happy employees around a meeting table

    Let’s face it, meetings can be a drag. And they can suck the morale and attention span out of just about anyone when they're too long or unstructured. So, when meeting about the abolishment of communication silos, with leadership or with the complete staff, keep it short and focused.

    As the change begins to take place in your organization, you want the energy high. Think of these routine progress meetings as infusions to keep everyone energized and on-task. There’s nothing wrong with making these meetings fun! It’ll help keep everyone coming back for more and invite all participants to collaborate freely.

    Remember the lyrics?

    Why won't you talk to me?
    I can't seem to speak now
    You never talk to me.

    Invite everyone to talk!

    5. Rewards

    Incentives go a long way when it comes to motivating people. We’re not just talking cash or spiffs here. Rewards take many forms, including positive words of encouragement for that well-needed and deserved slap on the back. As certain individuals rise to the top by embracing a better way to communicate, elevate them in any way you can to make them ambassadors for the cause.

    Green tress and tall buildings

    6. Change of scenery

    The end goal here is that every department operates like a cylinder in a perfectly tuned engine. Because if one cylinder goes out in a V-8, the remaining seven run like crap. Effective communication is like the timing belt in your company engine, and inter-discipline collaboration is the spark that makes each cylinder fire in perfect time. To help achieve this unity, try mixing up the physical workspace at your company to align with your communication goals.

    Informal shared workspaces encourage co-mingling between departments. Put in some couches. Throw in a ping-pong table for levity. Whatever jives with your culture. The point here is that when coworkers get to know one other more socially, they TALK! And that communication fosters greater collaboration to achieve everyone’s shared company goals.

    In summary: All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.



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    Topics: Leadership, Culture, UCaaS, Poor Communication