Silos are Good, But Need to Cross-Communicate and Cross-Pollinate – (Insight from Team of Teams)

Silo Mentality
A mind-set present in some companies when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. This type of mentality will reduce the efficiency of the overall operation, reduce morale, and may contribute to the demise of a productive company culture.


I had lunch recently with an accomplished business consultant. We were discussing a session he led within a large organization on how to work with, within, and across, silos.

It reminded me of the excellent book Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal. Here is part of what Team of Teams has toTeam of Teams say about silos:

(this book) describes how organizations need to reinvent themselves. This involves breaking down silos, working across divisions, and mastering the flexible response that comes from true teamwork and collaboration.

As we discussed, this consultant made this point: silos are good. You need the deep expertise that accumulates in teams within silos. These people know their stuff, and accomplish much within their silos. In other words, it would be a mistake to get rid of silos.

But – and this is a big but – it is no longer wise for silos to keep entirely to themselves. Organizations increasingly get in trouble (fall behind; miss opportunities; in general, mess things up) when Silo A is not communicating effectively with, and working with, Silo B, & C, & D, and…

In other words, the silos have to be as good as, or better than ever. But, they have to add the ability to cross-communicate, and then to cross-pollinate. This is now a recurring theme in business books, of which simply the latest that I have read is Team of Teams.

Not a single “team;” but a “team of teams.” A team of silos working together.

Here is one of my six takeaways from the book Team of Teams (read the others in this post):

The rhythm of regular meetings is essential – across “silos” and groups. But, where there is no genuine urgency, these meetings can become dreaded, and not all that productive. In the midst of genuine urgency, the meetings are welcomed as “survival” tools. 

In other words, an organization has to be very intentional about building teams across silos, forcing interaction, with cross-communication and cross-pollination effectively implemented across their silos.

Working effectively across silos — this is certainly one big challenge facing organizations today.


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