Be it in the office or when working remotely, teams and workers tend to work in silos. Most times, it’s not even conscious. Working in silos is in fact quite a natural tendency. Teams tend to communicate between their own team members, but not do it often or effectively with other teams.
The classic marketing vs. sales clashes come to mind?
It is easy to avoid working in silos when present together in the same office space. But not so much when you are working remote and can be cities, states, or even countries apart.
Teams working in opaque silos cause process and delivery bottlenecks. Working in silos inherently leads to inefficiencies in how resources are best put to use. Mind you, if you or a small or medium-sized business, you are already operating with fewer resources than truly needed. Inefficient use of these limited resources will only make it worse.
Silos are notorious for killing productivity
This is obvious, isn’t it? If all the teams in the company are not on the same page and aren’t effectively coordinating, then the overall productivity is bound to take a hit. A business succeeds only when all the teams comprising it are able to work together efficiently.
When working in silos becomes the norm in an organization, there is an immediate drop in cohesive communication practices. Silos, simply put, make inter-departmental communication difficult. The lack of proper communication between teams will mean an area of your business operation will suffer as an unintentional consequence.
Silos also hamper the positive work environment that you must be trying to build within your business. A great environment to work in is just as important as the pay, benefits, and opportunities for growth for most employees these days.
This leads to a breakdown of the alignment with the goals of the business. And that is not something any business leader wants to see happen. The work will be all over the place and the output will be work that does not meet the business goals.
To be honest, it shouldn’t be surprising that this affects remote teams even more, due to its very nature of being remote. The human disconnect is bound to creep in and make things difficult when it comes to getting meaningful work done.
Breaking down workplace silos in a remote team
Now that we absolutely agree that silos are harmful to a business, what can we do to avoid them? How do we keep work silos at bay, especially in a remote work setting where they pretty much get built due to the nature of the work? Here’s how.
Communicate, and then communicate some more
Communication is the sledgehammer to break down the walls of operational silos of a remote workplace. Communication leads to clarity and collaboration. And collaboration will not let silos be built up in the first place.
Communication can take many forms here – talking about updates, progress, plans, or anything else. Clear communication begins at the top. It is a matter of setting processes where people are driven to work together.
Also, establish protocols on the tools and platforms to be used for communication, the expected response and turn-around times, and what information is to be shared within a team and with other teams.
When we avoid information silos through communication, remote teams can function with improved efficiency.
Goal-setting exercises should be common and regular
Working on our own, without physical interaction with our teammates sometimes makes us forget about the goals we are supposed to work towards. Too often you will find virtual assistants focusing more on the day-to-day operations and lose sight of the bigger goals as a team and as an organization.
It is important to remind remote teams that we are all supposed to be working together to reach the goals. Regular meetings to discuss goals is necessary to align expectations and practices to the overarching vision of the company.
Business leaders should take it upon themselves to organize fortnightly or monthly get-together team calls where the goals are reiterated. And then help teams map those goals to the work they have done so far and will be doing in the coming weeks.
This will ensure that if a team or teammate is astray from the common goals that everybody is working towards, it is identified sooner and course-corrected immediately.
Encourage working on joint projects
In a corporate workplace setting, there are projects or tasks which are cross-domain. Typically, such projects involve at least two teams and more based on the nature of the work. It is important to actively encourage such projects and push teams to work together.
Silos automatically break down when people of different teams have to work together to see a project to its completion. Information is more effectively shared is such projects that require the joint effort of people from different teams. Workplace relationships are built and become stronger due to the constant working together and sharing ideas.
This also helps different teams understand the working styles of each other. It also gives each team insights into how the other teams think and approach the work.
Transparency should be company culture, not just a leadership buzzword
Many organizations work with the idea that teams only need to know enough to get their work done. It is always better that every employee is clear on all the companywide processes, news, and protocols.
Let people know what is happening with every team so that they are aware of things happening outside of their own bubble. This eliminates the idea of operational silos, as they don’t begin to be built in the first place if everyone is in the loop.
The ‘need to know’ basis of working is passé. It’s all about transparency and collaboration when working remotely. This creates a sense of accountability among everyone and avoids teams cocooning together when they work.
Without silos, collaboration becomes easier. Execution of work is also faster. Teams become far more willing to work with other members of other teams. A remote workplace without silos can turn into a productivity powerhouse that delivers day-in and day-out.