We did a little survey in a group of managers, asking them about the biggest communication problems in their organization. Here’s a winner:
“How do I get people in different silos to cooperate with each other rather than butting heads?”
They called it the Silo Effect: when you are trying to communicate with people outside your silo in the hierarchy, you don’t have enough authority to communicate effectively with them.
We thought this was silly – can’t you just make a request? No. Because they won’t honor it as valid or important – they don’t have to even listen to you.
The solution: put the hierarchy to work. One senior manager said, “Talk with your colleagues to get very clear about what you need from people in other departments. What products, services, and communications do you want from them? When do you want them – on a regular schedule, just a few times, or one-time only? Why, e.g., which goals will be advanced by this connection?”
“Once you’ve done that”, she said, “you can meet with your manager to present the need for the link and ask for help creating a pathway with other key people involved. Sometimes there are good reasons why a connection won’t work right now, but usually there is a way forward.”
Silos exist for a reason, but cross-silo links are critical to the success of some projects and goals. Specifying What-When-Why will help everyone in every silo see a bigger picture than what’s piled up on their desks. They might just listen – and deliver.