The Silo Effect – Communications (Part 1)

Because of my background and experience, I am often tasked to analyze communications for silos and then propose and implement solutions to address the issues. Let’s start with some definitions and related material:

“An information silo is a management system incapable of reciprocal operation with other, related management systems. … The expression is typically applied to management systems where the focus is inward and information communication is vertical. Critics of silos contend that managers serve as information gatekeepers, making timely coordination and communication among departments difficult to achieve, and seamless interoperability with external parties impractical.”

“As of 2010 the phrase “silo effect”, popular in the business and organizational communities, refers to a lack of communication and common goals between departments in an organization. It is the opposite of systems thinking in an organization. The silo effect gets its name from the farm storage silo; each silo is designated for one specific grain….. A lack of communication causes departmental thinking to lack ideas from other departments.”

As stated in an online article titled, A Matter of Trust and Respect:  “As organizations grow and reach a certain size, they frequently share a common characteristic. It is the affliction of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. How often have I heard a senior manager say to a colleague, “If you had just asked, we would have been happy to help.” It’s a case of every employee for himself, and no one rowing together for the common goals of the company…

The symptoms of the silo effect are easy to recognize: lack of cooperation, internal competition and breakdown in communication. The result is that one division gets pitted against another…

Generally, silos are an offshoot of decentralized management…..Once one sector starts to see its own goals as more important than those of the organization as a whole, and when individualism predominates over team spirit, silos emerge.”

Have I sparked your interest yet? More than likely, you have been involved in organizations at one time or another where silos have been prevalent within the management systems. Some organizations have silos- from top down, while others have silos between and within departments and business units. Many organizations are in denial of having silos. Many claim that communications is top priority within their organizations. Really? How can silos affect an organization? Simply stated: effectiveness, growth, quality, culture, production, performance, process, innovation, team cohesiveness, stress level, retention…shall I go on?

While the main objective for this blog entry is to bring awareness to silos, I will address root cause and how to solve the problems of silos in another entry. This posting is just something to chew on for awhile and reflect possible silos in your organization. Do I have your attention yet? Is this something you will only think about on a rainy day?  Just remember that silos affect maximum organizational effectiveness. How long can you afford to wait to address the issues?

Tammi Peters, M.S. HRD ~ Organizational Development Professional


2 responses to this post.

  1. Yes, you have my attention. I look forward to reading the next part on root cause.


  2. Thank you Martin.


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