The Bottom Line: Break the Silo or Perish

Authored by: Lauren Gjolaj, Director of Operations for Infusion Services and Utilization Review at University of Miami Hospital and Clinics

In a business environment full of jargon like “disruptive innovation” and “big data,” it’s hard to imagine that good old fashion issues like “silos” could not only exist but be a major contributing factor to a company’s poor outcomes.

The Silo Mentality as defined by the Business Dictionary is “a mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. This type of mentality will reduce efficiency in the overall operation, reduce morale, and may contribute to the demise of a productive company culture.”  Sounds dangerous, right?  Yet they exist in many companies to varying degrees and can be a key contributing factor to employee satisfaction, fiscal stability and quality outcomes.

So if silos are so horrible, why do they happen?  Corporate structure (including the physical separation of staff), lack of clear vision, or conflicts, within senior leadership, and lack of training/socialization between departments making it difficult to navigate cross-functional solitons to challenging issues are just a few root causes…realistically, the list could go on and on.  The worst part about silos is the impact they have on the everyday man – the front line employee who can become very frustrated with their organization when they have identified problems but can’t do anything about them – it’s demoralizing and can lead to decreased engagement and higher turnover.

Alright, I think that’s enough doom and gloom… have I convinced you that we should break the cycle yet?  Good! Let’s move on to what we can do to make it stop!

  1. Set the mood and talk it out. Be inclusive, recognize that everyone has something to contribute and share, and create a safe space for brainstorming and idea sharing.  During brainstorming exercises must be open; everyone’s ideas are valuable and each person brings their own set of unique experiences and expertise. Process improvement tools like flow charting, value stream or waste analysis can be helpful to get the party started.
  2. Share the love. Everyone should feel like an “owner” of the solutions.  As outcomes are achieved, results should be shared publically so everyone can feel the impact and understand the role they play in getting there.
  3. Everyone is a winner- Successes should be shared in teams.  Because honestly, who doesn’t like feeling a sense of accomplishment (and if nothing else, relief that an issue was tackled).

Sounds easy right?  Sometimes it is…other times it takes practice.  A wise man once said, “Don’t try to swallow the ocean.”  Similarly, when breaking the silos, start with small, manageable projects remembering that practice makes perfect.  Be patient with the process; remember that learning a new skill takes time. Build on small wins, and before you know it, collaboration will be the norm and soul crushing silos a thing of the past. Happy collaborating!