How to break down silos

How to break down silos

By John Milsom

Just about every one of the clients I have worked with this year has been grappling with the challenge of breaking down silos in their organisation. Whether the silos are geographic, functional, market based or relate to business units, leaders seem to be struggling to achieve the collaboration they would like to see, or is needed to execute their strategies.

It seems as if while everyone understands the benefits of horizontal teamwork (innovation, engagement, client satisfaction – or within professional services: increased cross selling) the means of achieving this remains a mystery.

Reflecting on the research in this field and our own experiences, it seems that relationships lie at the heart of the challenge. After all, as human beings we all prefer to work with what we know and who we know. Beyond this here are ten practical steps that leaders should look to take to break down silos in their organisations:

  1. Recruit and develop individuals with diverse backgrounds and skill sets rather than those with narrow specialisms
  2. Recruit and develop individuals with a growth mindset (the desire to learn and be stretched by new challenges)
  3. Recruit and develop people with high EQ
  4. Facilitate cross functional/business moves and experiences
  5. Inspire, equip and reward staff who operate with curiosity (Developing the ability to ask high quality questions across boundaries)
  6. Ensure leaders show an interest in what others are seeing and thinking (e.g. by asking questions, and seeking help from others to solve important problems they are facing)
  7. Create internal networking opportunities and ensure they include room for two-way dialogue
  8. Encourage the practice of looking at problems through the eyes of others
  9. Set up cross silo teams to work on specific issues
  10. Encourage employees to explore and develop their external network into new and distant domains

We welcome your thoughts breaking down silos. Would you add anything to these? If you’d like to share your own experiences, or talk about current challenges please do get in touch. Email John Milsom at Wickland Westcott ( or call him on 01625 508100.

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