4 ingenious ways to break down organisational silos

With an inquisitive eye and cup after cup of cheap caffeine, Michael King finds out what B2B big hitters are doing to remove progress-hampering silos from their organisations

As we move deeper into the digital age, it’s easy to assume that advances in social and digital media allow people and organisations to become more connected. But the irony is that it’s quite the opposite: digital networks don’t always guarantee a more connected workplace. That said, there are companies who have found that it's possible to avert silo-related disasters… and here’s how they’ve done it.

1. Invite feedback from customers at every turn

Jeremy Knott, interim CMO at Deloitte, argues that in order to smash down silos, marketers should think about talking to the customer during the product development stage in order to ensure their needs are being addressed.

“Many years ago, in the company where I was marketing director, we had a product quality problem and the manufacturing director wouldn’t listen to the feedback and complaints that were being fed to him by the sales team. So we set up quarterly quality forums with our customers and invited the manufacturing and technical/QC management along to hear first-hand the customers’ concerns.

“This had an immediate and dramatic impact on these non-customer facing teams. The customer issues became real and the promises we made to our customers had the full backing of our manufacturing/ops colleagues. Quality complaints dropped dramatically and sales revenue declines were reversed.”

2. Use a whiteboard to spur competition and collaboration

The introduction of a whiteboard from software company Apttus, entitled ‘Marketing Matters’, was initially intended as joke: a raising of collective eyebrows at the wider company’s apparent lack of interest in marketing. The marketing team was then shocked when colleagues across the organisation began to collaborate in a bid to see their ranking on the board rise. What had primarily been created for internal guffaws was actually succeeding as a collaboration tool. Sales guys love a bit of competition. Who knew?!

3. Encourage job swapping

Sometimes, all that’s required for silos to be broken down is for different teams and individuals to step into each other’s shoes. At Brother UK, a digital apprentice was given the opportunity to be managing director for a day in order to gain a better understanding of different job functions. In this way, greater collaboration has the potential to pave the way to a more connected business.

4. Bring everyone together for lockdown workshops

A fourth practical approach is offered by Peter Veash, CEO of The BIO Agency.  “Lloyds’ bank’s (a client) main issue was that it couldn’t compete with fintech start-ups and innovate rapidly,” he says. “Processes were slow and the challenge was to instil a culture of innovation from the inside. As a solution, we brought together all the key stakeholders from across the bank, including governance, risk, compliance, marketing, digital, IT, branches and call centres for a three-day lockdown workshop session to create high-level customer personas, identify customer painpoints and create solutions for how product and service innovation could transform how Lloyds sells and delivers mortgages in the future.”

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