How to crush departmental silos
By Deborah Wipf

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Have you ever been frustrated with another department at your company? Wondered why they just don't "get it"? Ever considered they might be feeling the same way about you? The phrase "departmental silos" refers to the lack of communication and understanding between departments that leads to inefficiencies, duplicate work and a decline in morale.


What is the biggest problem between departments in your organization?
  • 1. Lack of understanding
  • 2. Miscommunication
  • 3. Tension/frustration

As an organization grows and you add team members, it's easy for departmental silos to develop. One group doesn't understand what another group is doing (or why) and when that crosses their path, conflict ensues. Another issue arises when departmental leaders don't communicate and then present conflicting information to their teams or customers.

Here are several ways to get rid of those silos and improve relationships:
  1. Educate. A lot of the frustration is caused because the team in Dept. A doesn't understand what the team in Dept. B really does or why they should care. Start dealing with this issue by having a leader from each department give a 3-5-minute update in an all-staff meeting. The updates should include an overview of that department's goals, what they're currently working on, any challenges they're facing and how the other departments can help. It's also great for each leader to mention how another department has helped them succeed on a specific goal or at an event.

  2. Point out the interdependencies between departments. Accounting can't provide accurate financial reports to senior leadership without the right documentation from each department. The media team can't create an awesome announcement video without details on the latest event from that department. The point is that we need each other to succeed. We intuitively know this, but sometimes we need a reminder.

  3. Ask questions. When you start planning a new event, announcement or service, ask yourself this question: "Who will this impact and which department(s) should I involve?" For example: If you're planning a big party or event, you might ask this question and realize you need to talk with the facilities team.

  4. Set the tone from the top. This goes for everyone, really, but especially if you lead a department: Never speak poorly of another department in front of your team. If there's an issue, go directly to the leader of that department immediately to address the concern.

  5. Go out to lunch. It's harder to assume the worst about someone after talking about your favorite sports teams or your kids' latest antics over a meal. Head out to lunch with a few members of other departments and get to know each other. You can "talk shop" a bit, but focus mostly on developing great friendships.
Departmental silos and the resulting miscommunications, frustration and tension can hinder your team's ability to serve with excellence. Break down these walls and open up a path to greater teamwork and collaboration. It's usually not a simple undertaking, but always worth the effort.

Deborah Wipf is the president and founder of Velocity Management Group, a company dedicated to helping the leaders of nonprofits with the business side of running an organization. She loves ministry, big vision, details, project plans and organization. Combining these passions into becoming a "business coach for churches, ministries and nonprofits" is how Deborah seeks to serve God and help people.

Over the last 10 years, Deborah has worked in the for-profit arena developing the skills needed to pursue her passion — helping nonprofits. Connect with Deborah online on Facebook or on Twitter (@VelocityMgmtGrp).