If this example sounds a bit like what's happening in your organization, take heart. Fixing the silo problem takes time, and you need to be consistent. Here are some steps you can take:
- Meet with your team and tell them that you are fully aware of what is happening, that you want all of them to function as a team, and that you will be taking various steps to ensure that this will happen.
- Examine the compensation plans of your team leaders. Are they being paid to cooperate or compete? If it's the latter, you need to explain that they will be evaluated mostly on their cooperation, not on competitiveness, which can be destructive.
- Meet with your team at least once a month and ask questions, such as: "What collaborative teamwork have you used to help various projects succeed?" or "Do all the players have sufficient information to get their jobs done?" If the responses are "none" or "no," it's your job to analyze how information can flow better and faster. But do not get into who is wrong.
- When appropriate, begin a talent exchange between managers. This will make your organization more attractive to employees, will support cross-training and will expand the knowledge base in your organization.
- If one of your managers complains about another one, bring them both into your office, sit them down and explain that you want them to settle their issues. Be the facilitator; do not be the decision-maker.
- Publicly acknowledge efforts that succeeded through collaboration.
- Develop a decision-making process for the allocation of resources, and let every team member know what that process is. Be transparent about pet projects.
- If there are poor performers on any of your teams, encourage managers to coach, train or fire them, rather than hand them off to each other. Monitor movement among teams in your organization to ensure that this happens.
You can still encourage internal competition. Just make sure the competition doesn't get in the way of meeting organizational goals. Silos may be good on the farm, but they don't work in the office.
Diane L. Katz, Ph.D., is president of Tucson, Ariz.-based consulting company The Working Circle.