Inaturalist, an online portal for sharing natural observations, uses a tree of life image to help people learn taxonomy.This image is a tool for helping people organize species by plant categories(botany), fungus, and animal(zoology) groupings.In a tree of life we see how species groups are separated and united. The “tree” image shows how all living things are connected. Imagine if organizations had a similar image that visualized individual teams AND the whole. Could an image like this be used as a tool for breaking down silos?
The Silo Mentality is defined as a mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. This type of mentality will reduce efficiency in the overall operation, reduce morale, and may contribute to the demise of a productive company culture.
While business jargon comes and goes, the “silo” is one term that is well documented and noticed by managers and employees. It is often referred to as interdepartmental “turf wars”. Silos result in teams competing against each other rather than working towards a common goal.
The root causes of silos are multifaceted. Silos are often rooted in a misalignment in leadership.The solution to breaking down silos depeneds on a leadership team being aligned in vision, purpose and strategy.
What if a leadership team presented an image of the whole and could show how all the parts of an organization were interconnected? What if this image was in a taxonomy chart similar to the tree of life? How could that image help prevent the waste of resources and reductions in productivity that are common in silos?
Take a moment, grab a piece of paper and pencil. Try drawing your organization’s tree.
- Start with the roots…draw three roots. What would you label the roots of your organization? Is one of the roots a core value?
- Now add in the trunk….What holds up your organization against shifts in competition, human resources,etc? Label your trunk. Perhaps it is your mission statement?
- Next draw in several branches. What are the key branches to your organization?
- Now add in a crown of leaves. What is in the crown? What specific teams exist across the crown of the tree? How can you draw them so employees see the connection rather than just the separation?
- Last, the roots of trees bring waters and nutrients up and throughout the tree. The leaves provide sugars that travel down and through the tree. Draw two large arrows on your tree. One arrow going up from the roots…what travels up from the roots to all parts of your tree? One arrow going down from the leaves…what travels down from the leaves to all parts of your tree? Perhaps coming up from the roots is energy and direction from an aligned leadership team. Perhaps coming down from the team is commitment to collaboration.
Put down your pencil. What do you notice about your tree? How could this help you break down silos?
Perhaps a tree is not the right metaphor for you. Yet, imagine sitting with your leadership team and saying…we need a vision to show how we are all interconnected.What image comes to mind? How could you share it with the team? Or how could you build the visual image with your team? Where and how would you display it?
A leadership team that visualizes and promotes unity and interdependence will break down silos.
Share your images. Together we can break down silos.