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organizational silos overview how to break down

Organizational Silos: Overview, How to Break Down & Its Impact

Category: Knowledge Base Software

Last updated on Feb 16, 2023

As a remote worker who’s worked with different teams across different locations and time zones, I’ve had my fair share of silos.

And yes, they stifle the growth of any organization. Well, after making you (and everyone in the organization) unproductive, confused, selfish, and unhappy. Yikes!

In this article, I’ll be talking about organization (company) silos, how you can identify them in your company and what you can do (in my experience) to destroy some of these silos.

So jump right in.

What are Organizational Silos?

Organizational silos separate employees into individual groups – location, specialization, or department. That’s not a problem, right?

The problem lies when employees start to communicate and share information only with colleagues in the same silo – a recipe for disaster.

To keep it short, organizational silos refer to organizations where sharing information and knowledge between departments is scarce, and this is more common than you think. For instance:

  • The marketing team doesn’t talk with the sales department, so they don’t know how the sales reps sell the company’s products.
  • The product team always promises new “phantom” features to clients without liaising with the engineering team first, which causes stress and panic to the engineering team because of deadlines.

Do any of these ring a bell? If they do, you’ve been experiencing organization silos, and your company is this close to having a silo problem.

But did we get here? What causes organizational silos?

What causes organizational silos?

Silo mentality is the cause of organizational silos. A silo mentality is when employees and even management act like weirdos and don’t want to share information, forgetting they are all in the same company and working towards the same goal.

The silo mentality is so common, and we wonder why many businesses are plagued with miscommunication and inefficiency. A silo mentality can lead to:

  • Unclear company goals because everyone is so busy with their own goals and doesn’t care anymore.
  • Reduced collaboration from people who would usually share, and they’d be justified because “if the marketing team isn’t sharing any information with sales, why should sales share with them?”
  • Unhealthy competition and favoritism because everyone is now in competition for resources.
  • Lack of unified organizational culture
  • Internal communication barrier

How do organizational silos affect productivity and growth?

Silo organizations, whether they exist as large corporations or small start-ups, can offer serious business concerns. Not being able to make choices and act swiftly enough in an organizational environment that is always changing poses a serious risk to survival.

Let’s look at how silos can affect productivity and growth.

Unclear goals

When every department within a business has different priorities and refuses to share knowledge, it leads to unclear goals.

For example, a company usually has a marketing, engineering, and customer support team – all these teams should work towards one unified goal. However, in a company with a silo problem – there are always unclear goals because of poor communication and little collaboration.

Poor decision making

According to CEOpedia, the quantity and quality of information affect the efficiency and rationality of decisions. If employees don’t have access to the necessary resources and information, they can’t make critical decisions.

Instead, they will make decisions based on assumptions and gut instincts.

Time-wasting and poor communication at its finest!

Internal communication barriers

86% of employees and executives cite ineffective communication as the leading cause of workplace failure. In a company where knowledge sharing is not a thing among employees and executives, it causes frustration because the employees don’t know what to do next.


Poor communication in a company can build frustration. For example, has a manager ever asked you to do a certain task but didn’t communicate the details with you? How did you feel? Let me guess, frustrated?

Point made.

Work duplication

Another common downside of organization silos is task duplication. If there’s no communication, there’s no way to know if the work you’re doing has been done by someone else in another department, and this can lead to a loss of productivity and efficiency.

According to a study published by researchgate, 50% of employees agree that work duplication causes future uncertainty about roles.

And uncertainty about roles can cause employee churn. So once you notice repeated work duplication, you should start implementing a strategy to break down internal silos.

Overall impact on productivity

Unclear goals, poor decision-making, communication barrier, work duplication, and frustration contribute negatively to workplace productivity.

If employees are not aware of relevant information, or worse, they waste time doing trial and error to get things right; their productivity will plummet.


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Bad signs indicating you are suffering from Organizational Silos

We’ve talked about all the issues with company silos. But here’s the big question – how do you know if you’re suffering from it?

Undesirable user experience

One of the most frustrating indicators of organizational silos is “bad user experience.” You might wonder, “how do silos affect customer experience?”

Let’s paint this little scenario.

Your marketing team is running a campaign that includes 10% off all new sales, but no one in marketing told customer support. So your customers find out about this big discount and call customer support to learn more about it. But your support representative goes, “I’m sorry, I think you’re mistaken; we aren’t running a 10% discount.”

The customer leaves the call shocked and leaves a comment about their experience with your company on Twitter – and it wasn’t a nice comment.

I’m sure you now understand how organizational silos can cause bad user experience.

Employees unaware of new policies and change logs

If your company recently made some changes to its policies and only a fraction of the employees know about it, that is a big sign you’re suffering from Silos. It means there is poor communication in the workplace, and no one, especially management, shares information.

Lack of cross-departmental communication

A lack of cross-departmental communication might be the biggest red flag regarding informational silos. Cross-departmental communication allows for better use of resources and an understanding of the company as a whole.

Without proper communication channels, the business risks losing customers and appearing unprofessional. For this reason, it’s vital to ensure a consistent flow of communication throughout teams and a clear set of priorities that everyone follows.

Consistent breach of organizations rules

Another telltale sign of company silos is a consistent breach of work rules.

If employees break work rules all the time, it might be because there’s no clear communication. Without clear communication on workspace roles, employees will have difficulty adhering. Let’s be honest; you can’t keep to a rule you never knew existed.

For example, your company has a policy on using business computers for personal business, but no one said anything about it. Employees will use their business computers for personal stuff everyday because they don’t know it’s wrong.

Communicating your organization policy will reduce the likelihood of anyone breaking them because of the consequences attached.

Effective Strategies to break down Organizational Silos

You already know how bad organizational silos are. But the question now is, how do you break down organizational silos? It starts with changing the silo mentality, but here are some strategies that will help you along the way:

Create and spread unified organizational goals

Silos happen when teams focus solely on team-specific goals. This can lead to isolation when they feel like their work doesn’t impact the other teams, and they can focus on their goals instead of liaising with other departments. The best way to combat this is by creating unified organizational goals.

Now it’s one thing to create a goal; it’s another to align the whole company with the goals. That means making sure that departmental goals are aligned with common goals.

So how do you get alignment?

Get acquainted with different departments’ concepts and work ethics to understand how they work and find commonalities that can help achieve the company’s goal.

You can also sit down with everyone involved to establish some common goals that everyone can work towards. Doing this would foster cross-departmental collaboration; everyone will be more likely to share information and communicate if they know it will help achieve the common goal.

It can also be helpful to break down the agreed company goals into tangible, shared goals that cut across multiple departments.

For instance, it is never the sole responsibility of the sales team to drive online sales; the marketing department would have to be involved. Having shared goals that unite several teams with a common cause can bring departments closer and make them more efficient.

Encourage knowledge sharing

As we established above, if teams share a common goal, they are more likely to share knowledge. To further encourage knowledge sharing, you need to make it easy for your teams to communicate and collaborate.

Integrating collaborative platforms like Microsoft teams and Slack are perfect solutions for breaking down organizational silos. They are great for making team members in different departments stay connected and communicate instantly no matter where they are in the world.

Prioritizing collaborative platforms over emails also encourages transparency which is key to breaking down the silo mentality.

Implement workflow management

Workflows are a series of steps a team needs to take to get work done. They bring more structure into business operations, and you can create workflows for anything, including new employee onboarding and content operations.

You should manage business workflows to avoid duplication of work and improve efficiency. For example, if every part of a project belongs to a clearly defined workflow, each team member would understand what they need to work on and how to prioritize tasks efficiently.

Workflow management software like Monday, Kissflow, and Asana can help you automate workflows and reduce silos.

Encourage free flow of information between Top management and employees

Employees often have first-hand information on what works in a company, what doesn’t, and what improvements are needed the most – all information necessary to break down silos.

But unfortunately, this information often doesn’t reach the top leaders of the organizations because employees are scared of speaking up, which creates a block in the flow of information.

To combat this issue and get real insights into what is going on in the company from the employees’ perspectives, you need to make an effort to encourage the free flow of information.

You can do this by having real conversations with your employees, rewarding them for sharing information, and having weekly/monthly meetings where employees get to share their concerns and ideas for the company.

Blow whistle when deliveries on dependencies are delayed

Let’s say your team is working on a task that affects other tasks in other departments; you should update the other teams if there’s a delay – to avoid any miscommunication. This will help the other teams feel involved and make plans around your team’s schedule.

Implement a knowledge base

An internal knowledge base is perfect for breaking down organizational silos as it allows businesses to gather, organize, and share employee knowledge.

A knowledge base helps to break down silos by:

  • Storing information. You can easily review any information you want in the knowledge base without talking to anyone.
  • Sharing information. It’s easy to share documents with any team member.
  • Maintaining information. You can add, edit and audit the data stored in your knowledge base.

Ready to tear down silos?

By breaking down information silos, your employees will be more productive, and information will flow freely within the organization.

But it starts with identifying whether silos exist in your company. We gave different signs to look out for – if you missed it, please recheck the article.

If you identify silos in your company, use the strategies in this article to combat them.

Remember, organizational silos aren’t going away overnight; it takes time and effort across all structures within an organization. But it’s worth it! With the right tools, whether that is an internal knowledge base software or a collaborative tool, you can tear down silos!


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