What is Silo Mentality?

The definition of Silo Mentality is a mindset that occurs in organisations, which is inward looking and resists sharing information and resources with other people or departments within the organisation.

Similar terms with the same meaning are: Silo Thinking and Silo Vision
Silo Mentality in the workplace occurs when people specifically conclude that it is not their responsibility to coordinate their activities with peers or other groups. With this mindset, people have little interest in understanding their part in the success of the organisation as a whole.
Silo Mentality in business is so common that it is assumed to be a fundamental problem of human nature, and thus viewed as yet another element managers must manage.
Human characteristics certainly contribute to this mindset. However, some organisations are far more successful than others in eliminating it than others. This suggests there are things about the way an organisation operates that either encourages or discourages this mindset.

What are the consequences of Silo Mentality?

Many other chronic organisational problems are a direct consequence of the Silo effect.

Localised, disconnected decision-making
Silo Mentality in organisations encourages localized, disconnected decision-making. In this culture everyone is making decisions based on their own local context and personal requirements. They see no incentive to make their own changes in order to solve another’s problem.

The apparent culture of lack of ownership
In a Silo culture, managers often struggle to engage people in collaborating to implement vital changes. It is not unusual for managers to complain that it can be like “pulling teeth” to encourage ownership of collective goals. It sometimes seems as though people are quite prepared to continually attend meetings, have their say, and make the appropriate comments. However, once the meeting is over, they are overcome with apathy and do little until they attend the next meeting.

Murphy’s Law
In these organisations managers seem to expend significant time fire-fighting, which leaves little time to address the causes of problems. This means that many organizations are doomed to continually invoke Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong at the worst possible moment, over and over again.” Despite the unsatisfactory nature of this arrangement changes are often still resisted, either openly or covertly.

Organisations designed to resist change

Even if managers did have time to spare, very often the critical problems seem to be caused by other people or groups “not doing their job properly”. As the cause of the crisis usually seems to originate elsewhere, managers rarely feel able to proactively prevent crises from reoccurring in the future. It is not just that organisational cultures become resistant to change. In almost appears that:

Silo organizations seem to have been specifically designed to prevent natural adaptation.

An abundance of brilliance leading to Collective Stupidity
Even groups that exhibit an abundance of individual brilliance, but who suffer from Silo Mentality, can often exhibit collective stupidity. This was shown to be the case in the financial sectors of many countries prior to the 2007 financial crash. The banking sector was awash with exceptional individual talent. The organisations followed the generally accepted management mantra that the way to achieve organisational success was to hire (at almost any price) the most talented individuals available. As several authors have identified, the people involved were incredibly smart. They all knew there were problems with structured commodities and mortgage-backed securities. The problem was that it was no one’s responsibility to look at them. In effect:

Even with an abundance of individual brilliance, the worldwide financial crash was created by widespread Silo Mentality that created collective stupidity

A collection of individual intelligences transformed into unthinking robots
Bizarrely, in different situations, a silo culture can also have the opposite effect. It can transform a group of perfectly intelligent people into a collection of unthinking robots. This has been particularly noticeable in many Western mass production factories. Managers would often complain that staff left their brains in the cloakroom before starting work. Staff on the factory floor seemed to be uninterested in helping to improve the quality or reduce the cost of the products they were producing.

The unsatisfactory nature of work and the Blame Culture
Any selection of these problems can occur in every type of organisation. When things start going wrong, the problems can quickly create what has become known as a Blame Culture. Everyone is eager to ensure that someone else is blamed for inefficiencies. Quick fixes are made without thinking through the consequences. Alternatively, the latest management fad is imposed in a top down fashion attempting to correct the situation. But staff then feel that they are subjected to an unceasing series of apparently meaningless changes. Often these changes seem to be for the sake of change, rather than for any substantive purpose. They feel that the fads rarely seem to bring about observable improvement. This mixture of perceptions can often help to deepen a culture of resistance and mistrust. In general, organisations with a strong culture of Silo Mentality suffer from lower morale and even lower job satisfaction. In this type of situation:
Work becomes stressful, frustrating and far less satisfying and productive than it potentially could be.

Suboptimal performance
Clearly, the preceding list of issues ensures that organisations are typically operating well below their full potential. We need to initially identify what mindset would overcome these issues. It’s true that an organisation gets a free brain with every pair of hands hired. We need to identify the mindset that would enable every neuron of under-utilised brainpower to be consistently benefitting the organisation.

Eliminating Silo Mentality
If you would like more information on how to remove Silo Mentality from your organisation, you can download more details using the link below:

How to eliminate Silo Mentality