6 tips for breaking down business silos

Pasfoto van bijdrager Sarah LaoyanSarah Laoyan
24 januari 2024
5 min. leestijd
6 tips for breaking down business silos article banner image
Zie sjabloon


It’s not unusual for large organizations to have silos of information. The challenge is figuring out how to bridge the gap so teams can effectively collaborate and get the information they need. Learn how to break down silos to encourage team collaboration.

The most important business initiatives are cross-functional ones that involve a variety of departments. But it’s often challenging for different departments to work together because of inadvertent silos. When each team has their own tools and systems, it’s challenging for team members from different departments to know where and how to collaborate. 

To be more effective and agile, it’s important for departments to consistently think about how they collaborate with other teams, and how to prevent silos from forming. 

What are silos in business?

A silo in business is when a part of your business is isolated from other parts of your company. Silos often form by nature when teams develop their own individual processes and workflows. Departments naturally store information in different ways, and this can make it challenging for cross-collaborators to get the information they need to work together.

Breaking down silos is about encouraging connection and enabling employees to communicate in the same way across the company. 

No more silos: Optimizing your organizational structure for stronger cross-team collaboration

In this ebook, learn how to structure your organization to prevent silos, move faster, and stay aligned in the face of change.

Get the insights
Optimizing your organizational structure for stronger cross-team collaboration ebook banner image

Why do silos happen?

Silos typically form as a function of the tools you use—not the people who use them. Most tools are organized in what we call a container data model, which governs how the tool organizes and stores information. Essentially, these tools require us to organize information in a one-to-one relationship.

Het containermodel

Wat is een containergegevensmodel?

Een containergegevensmodel gebruikt één-op-één-relaties om projectwerk te organiseren. Het is eigenlijk een gegevensmodel waarin een werkunit enkel op één plaats kan bestaan. Je team heeft bijvoorbeeld een map, en dat is waarin al het werk van je team zich bevindt. We noemen dit gegevensmodel een 'containermodel' omdat elk stukje werk in één en dezelfde 'container' terechtkomt. En hoewel het containergegevensmodel makkelijk te implementeren is, laat het geen dynamische projecten of cross-functional teamwerk toe.

In a container data model, the flow of information only lives in one place, and it’s the responsibility of the individual team member to find where that information is. While the container model is the most common way to organize and store information, it’s not conducive to sharing cross-collaboratively. That’s because work doesn’t operate on a one-to-one basis, but a one-to-many relationship. This means that one piece of information in cross-collaborative work connects to multiple teams, with different goals, on a variety of projects.

De Asana Werkgrafiek®

Symptoms of silos

If you’ve noticed miscommunications and constant back and forths between your collaborative teams, these might be indicators of a larger issue. If you’re not careful, silos can lead to increasingly serious problems, such as:

  • Unnecessary status updates and meetings: If teams can’t access the information they need, then they always need to connect with others to get information. This results in more meetings, which leaves less time for those team members to spend on important work that helps achieve business goals.

  • Duplicative work: When cross-collaborative teams don’t communicate effectively, there’s a chance that both teams are doing the same work. This is a waste of time, energy, and resources that can cost your company a lot of money.

  • Team competitiveness: While some friendly competition can help increase productivity, unnecessary competitiveness can cause teams to become antagonistic towards each other. This can cause tension and conflict, which creates a hostile work environment.

  • Unscalable foundations: If roadblocks keep popping up because of individual team processes, it’s very possible that departmental silos caused this problem. If you’re looking to scale workflows, teams need to work cross-collaboratively and support each other so that both teams have a unified vision on a specific initiative.

6 ways to break down silos

Breaking down silos is about fostering more effective cross-functional collaboration. Here are six different strategies to help break down silos and encourage more collaboration within your organization.

1. Adopt transparent forms of communication

When each team uses their own software—especially software built within a container data model—it’s nearly impossible to communicate cross-functionally. 

The first step in breaking down organizational silos is standardizing transparent forms of communication across your enterprise. By implementing standardized technology or integrated business tools across departments, you can ensure team members know where and how to communicate effectively. 

If you haven’t already, consider rolling out enterprise-wide technology to foster transparent communication. Use change management to educate your team on best practices and how to use it effectively in your company.

Using a centralized tool that documents key decisions and contextual project information allows team members to refer back to it quickly when they’re working on projects. Whether you’re rolling out new technology, or standardizing processes on existing tools, ensure that your team members know where to find the information they need, and how to communicate with other team members as needed. By creating processes both for live conversations and asynchronous communications, you can reduce the amount of time in meetings and increase productivity. 

Similarly, looking for technology that connects individual projects and tasks to larger, overarching company goals. By sharing a larger goal, this prevents individual teams from becoming too focused on their own tasks, instead of the big picture goal.

2. Establish a central system of record

When each team has their own way of working, information is scattered across a variety of tools and documents. Disorganized projects can lead to information silos, miscommunication, and time wasted from chasing information. The easiest way to prevent this is by establishing an organized central system of record.

When you create this centralized system of record, teams have the ability to look back on past projects to see how projects progressed, how issues were resolved, or how certain decisions were made. This gives them the opportunity to use past projects for inspiration and prevention. Start by establishing your central system of record. Document any type of decision-making, discussion, or conversation surrounding a project in this centralized location. Using a work management tool like Asana helps save your team time so they don’t have to ask team members for information, or spend time trying to hunt down the information on their own. This allows team members to look for information independently and use past projects for inspiration, without having to connect with other team members.

No more silos: Optimizing your organizational structure for stronger cross-team collaboration

In this ebook, learn how to structure your organization to prevent silos, move faster, and stay aligned in the face of change.

Optimizing your organizational structure for stronger cross-team collaboration ebook banner image

3. Standardize communication practices

Establish standard practices for your teams, like how to best run meetings, send messages, and share information with other team members. It’s much easier for team members to understand each other when everyone has the same framework for communication. A great way to start doing this is by establishing communication plans for new projects. A communication plan outlines how your team is going to communicate for the duration of a project, including how and when to share information with key stakeholders. Building a communication plan is simple—all you have to do is decide on your communication methods, align on how frequently to communicate, identify major stakeholders, and share your communication plan to everyone on the team.

4. Define how cross-functional team members will work together

Some projects (like a product launch) are one-time cross-functional initiatives. These are time-bound projects that involve multiple departments that work together to get work done. While the work itself is cross-functional, the teams are often more traditional and siloed, as the work is segmented off by the type of work that needs to be completed before a specific deadline. This is when it’s extremely important to define how teams will work together, so that those on more traditional teams don’t fall back into a siloed mentality. 

Cross-functional teams are created to work on long-term initiatives or ongoing processes. These teams can be effective if you have ongoing initiatives that require frequent cross-functional interaction, like deal desk or procurement management teams. Cross-functional teams can bridge information silos easily by defining how they will collaborate with each other by creating processes and workflows together.

5. If possible, take down literal physical barriers

If your team works in office, consider taking down any physical barriers that can obstruct ad hoc communication. This means embracing the open floor plans and adding intentional space for collaboration moments, such as communal spaces beyond just conference rooms. This helps to foster more natural communication as things come up, and provides more organic face-to-face interaction. Your teammates will become more comfortable with each other, and willing to chat more freely when it comes to important working matters.

6. Spend more time together (outside of work)

Cross-functional team members can work better together if they simply spend more time with each other outside of work. Eat lunch, get coffee, or take regular walking breaks to bond with collaborators outside of your own team. This will help strengthen the bonds across departments and build a sense of community and camaraderie within your team. 

Break down silos to create more efficient teams

Encouraging cross-collaboration between teams brings you one step closer to creating a more efficient workforce. Create opportunities for team members to focus less on the back-and-forth of project management, and more on the important work needed to achieve their goals.

No more silos: Optimizing your organizational structure for stronger cross-team collaboration

In this ebook, learn how to structure your organization to prevent silos, move faster, and stay aligned in the face of change.

Optimizing your organizational structure for stronger cross-team collaboration ebook banner image

Gerelateerde bronnen


110+ beste vragen om het ijs te breken voor teambuilding