Breaking down silos. Fostering Collaboration. Act human-centric!
Published by Maike

Imagine an orchestra with many great musicians but they are not listening to each other. What would their performance be like? Imagine a football team with world class players but all just caring about their individual success. What would their play be like? The same happens within organizations, it’s called silo effects.

Silos are stumbling blocks

In today’s digital era silos quickly turn out as stumbling blocks. Companies need to go faster. Why? Because out there are new competitors or startups that go fast. Companies also need efficient connections across all their functions. Why? Because end-to-end customer experiences are winning in today’s world. These are only two reasons. In other words: Innovation and agility cannot thrive in siloed organizations.

Siloes can appear in various forms, such as locations (from rooms to different countries) or organizational functions (e.g. IT, business, marketing, … using different language, following their own KPI). Sometimes they are just different tribes due to other barriers.
Barriers based on silos hold back everyone, make the overall organization slower and less efficient, let people work with lacking or outdated information, create frustrations and double work, etc.

Overcoming barriers with collaboration: 5 errors to avoid

How to overcome silo barriers and foster better collaboration? How to make the vision of better collaboration and shared goals a reality in daily work life?

  • Error #1: Looking at org charts. They tell us nothing about how work gets done. It’s more useful to identify end-to-end flows of work, information and people connections and influencers. The flow lens allows to look at the system holistically.
  • Error #2: Mixing up cooperation and collaboration. Cooperation means that people help once they are asked. Collaboration means that people understand what happens on the other side and can actively suggest help or involve others.
  • Error #3:  Go directly to the solution. Instead of understanding barriers in detail in the specific context, teams sometimes implement a solution straight away without having designed a clear problem-solution-fit.
  • Error #4: Think the tool will fix it. A tool might help to collaborate more efficiently but only if it responds to the specific needs of the team, it’s workflows, it’s culture, etc.
  • Error #5: Think a one-off team building, vision communication, feel good exercise or similar will do the job. Collaboration needs to grow step by step into daily habits and progress needs to be tracked by clear KPIs.

How to make collaboration happen? Act human-centric.

In most cases we are not as human-centric as we think. We are used to look through the process lens, optimize productivity, work on tool specifications along functionality lists, focus on cost reductions,…. Let’s shake up old systems of thinking and working. We need a real understanding of people, their experience, their motivations and frustrations to better drive collaboration that is efficient and enjoyable. We need to uncover the underlying human-centric experience. We are now used to bring the voice of the customer to the table. The same is true for the people within the organization.

Here comes the Design Thinking approach into play. The Design Thinking mindset fosters a culture of collaboration. It helps to challenge existing assumptions and beliefs. It brings together multidisciplinary points of view and skills. But above all: it connects us directly to the people that are collaborating, understanding deeper drivers and barriers, needs and desires around their role and specific tasks in their environment. It’s breaks down barriers between silos, between “one side” and “the other side” right from the beginning. This empathy allows to understand deeper motivations and pain points.

Starting from the human-centric perspective increases interaction between people who are concerned right from the start. It engages these teams in co-creation, coming up with creative ideas and testing them fast and early. And a dish always tastes more delicious if one is proud to have cooked it oneself.

Join us on for a meetup workshop on 29th November 2018 in Paris to dive deeper into this topic.