After summarizing the telltale signs of a siloed organization and listing the ways to break down silos to restore communication and collaboration between departments, interviews prompted the contrasting question, "Can organizational silos ever be a good thing?" While it has become clear that you never want silos to become too opaque, where they become detrimental to company culture, communication and collaboration, but sometimes, a little bit of segmentation in an organization can reap real benefits.
In fact, CMSWire has spoken to business executives to come up with some important reasons why you may actually want to foster transparent silos within your organization.
1. Expert Nurturing
A silo can help keep employees focused on their areas of expertise, and keep them from getting distracted or involved in other areas of the company. As a result, their level of expertise increases over time, forming true industry experts as opposed to "jacks of all trades." “Focusing functional knowledge within a department creates subject matter experts in each particular area of the business —- and building expertise is just good for the bottom line. It’s only a problem when it comes at the expense of inter-departmental cooperation and collaboration, which will negatively impact the company’s ability to reach its business goals,” said Matthew Harris, CEO of San Francisco, California based SendWithUs.
2. Client Specialization
According to Kendall Morris, Partner & Chief Strategy Officer at Richmond, Virginia based Authentic, silos can come in handy when you want a subset of your employees to become immersed in one particular client or project in order to produce the best client experience, products or services.
“One place where silos are particularly effective is across client work. [With silos in place], a client team will be fully dedicated to their client and can gain efficiencies by the focus and learnings of being fully immersed in that client's business,” she said.
Related Article: Key Benefits of Multidisciplinary, Cross-Silo Collaboration
3. Collaboration Control
While it’s true that communication is your best defense against organizational silos, there is such thing as too much communication, according to Harris. He believes it's paramount to make the distinction between decision making and execution. “Cross team collaboration can be extremely useful to help the right decisions be made regarding strategy, product, or other items. [However,] once a decision has been made, too much collaboration in the execution can slow it down. So, it is often important to ensure important decisions are not made in a silo, but execution is not held up by other teams,” he said.
4. Chinese Walls
The "Chinese wall" is the organizational silo’s friendly cousin. A "Chinese wall" describes the practice of companies — often agencies with competing clients — siloing teams to keep the secrets and internal-news of each client safe, and to ultimately avoid a conflict of interest. "The concept of a Chinese wall is that an organization would service two different brands who may be competitive in their industry," said Morris. According to her, the practice of creating a 'Chinese wall' in an organization can be quite effective if done properly but also complex in the actual practice.
"In order to remove a concern of a conflict of interest for all parties, an agency would create two completely different teams of talent to work on the brands and honor strict guidelines about sharing of any information between the two teams. In an ideal execution, the work would be conducted in two different offices to create a physical barrier as well,” said Morris.
Related Article: 5 Signs Your Organization Is Too Siloed
Just A Dash Of Silo
Striking the balance between siloing your teams just enough or creating an overly-siloed company is difficult, but according to experts there has to be a balance. , “Finding the right balance is the key — [although I admit] getting there is almost never easy. It's well worth the effort, though. Your business will run more smoothly, you’ll have more satisfied employees, and you’ll see a positive impact on your bottom line,” Morris said.