farm-siloI’ve worked in and with organizations of all kinds. And no matter the type or size, they share a common challenge: silos.

The organizational structures and attitudes that keep us from working together can be annoying, at best. At their worst, they can be infuriating, debilitating and destructive to your working relationships and the organization as a whole.

At the core, the silo problem is a communication problem. Silos are challenging and persistent, often because they’re fueled by (executive) egos and bogged down by organizational history.

But the obstacle is neither impenetrable nor impassable. You can find a path through or around organizational roadblocks.

Take an organized approach: understand the root issue and its effects; begin building personal relationships; and lay the groundwork for true collaboration than can benefit your organization over the long term. Here are four simple steps I use to do just that:

1. Assess the problem

  • Identify issues.

What silos exist in your organization?

What are the sources or causes (from your perspective)?

  • Articulate impact

How do silos affect how you work?

How do they affect how other people and the organization operates?

  • Focus.

Where are the easiest ins and wins?

What is one problem you can directly impact or help solve?

2. Connect

  • Reach out.

Connect with an ally, a like-minded peer or a key influencer.

  • Make it informal.

Meet in a neutral location, preferably not in the office-proper.

Focus first on the relationship. Make a connection. Build rapport.

  • Start with a conversation.

Share what’s on your mind and your plate. Ask what’s on their mind and what their priorities are.
Where are the natural intersections and opportunities to work together?
Listen and be open to different approaches. You may have certain ideas, but they will, too.

3. Collaborate

  • Start small.

Pick one project or campaign to do together.brick steps, rustic, warrandyte

Allay “outside” fears and concerns by sharing information with stakeholders and other key people.

  • Celebrate and communicate.

Celebrate your success with each other and your teams.

Report accomplishments to leadership. Highlight success in employee and other publications.

4. Sustain and Grow

  • Care for what you created.

Identify one thing you will do regularly to maintain the relationship, like a monthly coffee or quarterly update, etc. Put it on your calendar!

Identify the next three steps you will take to sustain or expand the initial project.

  • Keep growing.

Keep communicating and coordinating – with each other, other groups and leadership.

Expand efforts where opportunity exists. Set a comfortable, sustainable pace.