Silo Busting



A: Recognize 

Questions to ask:

“How are people changed by the work we do?” 

“How do we do what we do?” 

Siloed Organizations:

  1. Focus on the organization not the customers, create paranoia, dampen enthusiasm, and normalize protective language, e.g. “It’s not my problem.”
  2. Define success as individuals out-doing colleagues, act in self-protective ways that damage others, and only win when others lose.
  3. Isolate talent, redundant work is duplicated out of institutional ignorance.
  4. Resources are stockpiled, rather than leveraged by those who need them most.
  5. Are slow to progress and only grow inward.

 Silo Busting:

  1. Recognizes the customer-centred purpose of your work and cultivate it as a motivator for action.
  2. Acknowledges individual and organizational weaknesses and strengths.
  3. Leverages the diverse deep expertise in specific areas of organization.
  4. Identify stakeholders who can champion collaboration.Don’t focus on skeptics.

B: Imagine

Questions to ask:

“What am I doing to help people realize they matter?”

“What am I doing to make people feel like they belong in a collaborative working environment?”

  1. The organization can be agile and resilient through cross-boundary collaboration.
  2. Action for change coming from within each siloed group.
  3. Focusing on the work, not the silos.

 C: Act 

Question to ask:

“What am I doing to help people work together?”


  1. Start a positive whisper campaign amongst champions by employing boundaryless language.
  2. Establish inclusive rather than exclusive systems.
  3. Tell stories that honor collaboration and illustrate silo-busting.


  1. Hold cross-department planning meetings, to breakdown seeing the other as the enemy.
  2. Seek best solutions regardless of the source.
  3. Build consensus.
  4. Ensure cross-functional teams have power with a final decision-maker in order to eliminate the need to run decisions up the chain.


  1. Do not make enemies of the people you are trying to connect.
  2. Foster maximum transparency and information sharing.
  3. Develop leadership skills and attitudes that enhance collaboration.
  4. Measure and reward performance in terms of teams.

Closing Thought

Inspire the unimaginable!


Additional Resources:

Slides from presentation titled, Silo-Busting 2.0 made to the Alberta Services for Students Conference 2017 held in Athabasca, Alberta, Canada.