Employees and teams that are able to effectively work together cross-silo are more effective and productive, research by Harvard indicates. Especially in larger organizations, valuable projects require intensive cross-department / country cooperation to succeed. Therefore, employees who are able to build bridges are getting more and more in demand. Building bridge isn’t easy to accomplish however, as increased cooperation in a big organization also means more distractions and more stress. Here are some tips on how to balance increased cooperation and
What professional relationships get priority?
In organizations there are two different types of cooperation, being horizontal and vertical.
Vertical cooperation is the cooperation between a manager and his/her employee. Conversely, a horizontal relation is one between colleagues within or outside a department.
Harvard business review indicates that when asked, people indicate that they focus more on vertical cooperation. However, and now it gets interesting, the same respondents indicate that a company benefits more from horizontal cooperation.
Challenges in breaking silos
Benefits in general for employees who are able to break the silos in companies are that they learn faster than other employees and bring more value to the company.
However, breaking silos can be challenging, because we need to actively learn about other people and be able to relate with them. Empathy is an important skill to accomplish this.
Moreover, in a multi-national company cultures across countries can be very different. For instance, Dutch people are intensely direct, whereas some Asian cultures are quite indirect. This requires a lot of adjustment from both sides for the cooperation to succeed.
Increased cooperation will also require more cooperation. This in turn can mean that you get more emails, phone calls, IMs, etc. To be able to profit from breaking silo’s, this is an important challenge you must face. Therefore, it is very important to properly schedule your time and, for instance, make sure you reserve blocks of time in which you can do most of your thinking.
For more tips on how to deal with increased distractions, I suggest you read the following articles:
What can be done to improve interface work and break the silos?
As organizations have much to gain by effective cross-team cooperation, it’s a smart move to hire for bridge builders and adhesive team members. On which more in the next section. But also as an employee, there are ways you can improve to work better between silos and increase your personal effectiveness:
1. Identifying and developing as cultural brokers
Teams that include cultural brokers perform better. Cultural brokers work as adhesive and as bridge builders for and between teams. The two (bridge builders and adhesives) are not the same, by the way.
Bridge builders are people who act as information brokers between teams. They make sure that departments are able to work together, by aligning internal procedures and requirements from the two departments. Bridge builders do not require other team members to spend any energy in these alignments, allowing them to focus on their own tasks.
Adhesive team members are the glue that holds teams and departments together. They know how other people think and how to handle other cultures. These team members communicate this with others to make sure they empathize more, which in turn improves mutual understanding and increases the effectiveness of the cooperation.
Maybe you’re a cultural broker yourself and you act as such. If you’re not, you do well to identify the broker within your team or within another team you have to work with a lot. These are typically the people you need and in picking them to cooperate with, you will improve the cooperation between the teams.
You can always choose to act more like a cultural broker. A tip to break the silos with other cultures is to refrain quick judgement if someone has a different opinion or set of beliefs. Being open to other cultures is key here. Moreover, you can actively organize meetings and projects that transcend teams, more on that in the second tip to break silos.
2. Organizing cross-silo meetings and projects
Different teams generally have very specific sets of knowledge. However, if the teams work closely together, these sets of knowledge intersect at a certain point. Therefore, it is very valuable to organize knowledge sharing sessions.
In this way, you and your team mates gain better insight in why you receive certain information requests, or new ways to perform your own work more effectively. So if you want to become a cultural broker, organizing knowledge sharing sessions is one way to achieve this.
Working in an international environment myself, I know how powerful and synergetic these types of sessions can be.
Another way to break the silos is to seek close cooperation with other departments for larger projects from the onset. This way, you ensure that everyone is involved and that the gains for the company once the project is finished are maximized.
That’s it for this week. Thank you for reading my post. Please share and like the post if you enjoyed reading it and see you back next week for a new post!
Cross-silo leadership: Harvard Business Review