The silo mentality can be a serious threat to a project. It closes team members off from each other and stifles the flow of information. The ability to make good business decisions, develop resolutions to problems, and even properly identify issues are all diminished if cooperation among cross-functional groups is hampered by organizational project silos. With a heavy dependence on good communication channels and the need for efficient and effective collaboration, PMs need to prevent the problems that come along with the silo mentality.
What can you do to ensure that the isolation and segregation of organizational project silos don’t slow your project’s progress or hinder data sharing? Successfully avoiding potential problems calls for a few targeted strategies.
Project team leaders should start by recognizing that silos are part of human nature. People are busy. When pressed for time, most will focus on the tasks that loom largest on their radar. That means another group’s problems aren’t inherently high on the priority list. A tendency to fall back into their own silos often suggests that team members have too much to do or that they’re unaware of how important their contributions are to the project’s success. PMs should continuously monitor workloads and frequently remind everyone about the value they bring to the effort.
Understand that silos can hinder more than just communications. They may also prevent your project’s various functional groups from coming together around a holistic plan. If each sub-team adopts its own approach to project management, then a host of other problems will invariably follow—resource conflicts, multiple schedules floating around, unexpected budget variances, etc. The project’s leaders need to be watchful for all the ways silos can stifle progress and be sure the team is working together toward common goals.
The implementation of the right project methodology is critical to overcoming the problems project silos often bring. You should look for a strategy that leverages a team-based approach to planning. This will not only ensure the availability of more accurate and comprehensive data when developing the project plan, but it’s also the best way to gain buy-in from team members. You need their full commitment from the get-go, since they’re the ones you’re counting on to do the work on time and correctly. If they’ve helped create the plan and formulate the timeline, you know everyone is on the same page.
Place an emphasis on the use of one holistic plan to drive the team’s efforts. This will maintain everyone’s focus on the project’s critical paths and reduce the risk that one of your cross-functional groups might become too narrowly dedicated to those activities that directly relate to their individual workflows. With a single, integrated plan in place, you can then deploy rigorous project controls to alert you to any potential issues on the horizon, giving team members adequate time to resolve problems without losing their forward momentum.
Encourage team participation during brainstorming sessions and troubleshooting activities. Ongoing engagement provides an important counterpoint to the silo mentality, and this is especially true when it comes to evaluating problems and implementing solutions. One of your team’s assets is its depth of knowledge, so tap into that whenever possible. In the process, you’ll build a stronger team by reinforcing the value each person’s perspective brings to the discussion.
Partner with an expert facilitator to help overcome any remaining barriers. There may still be occasions when the group is long on work and short on time. The support of a skilled facilitator will help balance your team’s desire to bury themselves in daily activities with the need to maintain communication throughout the project’s life-cycle.