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Article

How Siloed Teams Can Make Collaboration a Habit

by Stephen Danos

Teams tend to stick together, whether they work for a Fortune 100 company or a 50-person startup. After all, these colleagues often work toward similar goals and team boundaries are sometimes needed to keep things streamlined for meeting deadlines, and for nurturing camaraderie between teammates.

Overhead view of women's rowing team on blue water.

However, the “silo mentality” holds teams back in several ways. Team silos can result in a sense of tribalism and undermine the spirit of collaboration, running the risk of disrupting a company’s ability to innovate and stay aligned. Here are some of the ways silos can hurt your business and what you and your teams can do to avoid them.

Silos and Tribalism

Team identity is one thing, but tribalism at its worst can result in teams that are loyal to their own members over the larger group. This can result in a work environment where teams compete with each other — instead of their business’s actual competitors. As noted in Harvard Business Review, workplace tribalism creates an “us versus them” mentality, producing a culture where people are less likely to be focused on overcoming business challenges together.

Team productivity suffers. When team leads don’t see eye to eye, they might proceed with a plan that either duplicates or counteracts the work of another department. Siloed teams protect their own team’s interests over those of the organization, which hurts consistency, reliability, and collaboration.


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One remedy for tribalism is to use workplace tools that promote cross-team visibility and enable a more holistic view of the organization. When information is centralized on a work-management platform such as Smartsheet, teams can easily see how their efforts support larger goals, and can more easily work towards meaningful collaboration that helps drive success.

Lack of Collaboration Is Disruptive

A worker points at a document on a table during a meeting.

Siloed teams often lead to siloed information, an absolute killer of cross-functional collaboration critical to competing in business today. Teams that collaborate well with other teams tend to be more transparent and accountable, allowing them to move more quickly and drive better results.

Smartsheet portals and dashboards help teams and departments collaborate better by providing visibility into project statuses, KPIs, real-time data, and other information. Using simple rules, project leaders can set up automatic notifications, reminders, update requests, and approval requests — so stakeholders are automatically informed when something changes, needs attention or is at risk.

Once teams embrace automated actions, individuals can spend less time on repetitive manual tasks, email, and status update meetings, and more time collaborating on work that engages them.


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Misaligned Organizations

A rusty nail pierces a puzzle piece that is not correctly aligned.

If teams within a company don’t share key information, then they likely lack visibility into how decisions are being made, and that can have a costly trickle-down effect. For example, if sales and marketing teams don’t know about upcoming product changes, then it’s going to be a real challenge for them to align on key messaging.

There’s a full range of visibility that may be needed to get projects across the finish line. Individual contributors need a clear view of tactical work that affects their projects, while leaders need to see the broader impact their teams are making (the “helicopter” or “satellite” vantage points). Workers need to know what’s on their to-do lists, while managers need to make sure everyone is on track to hit deadlines and revenue goals. It’s difficult for any of this to happen when team silos are the status quo.

Departments are better aligned when they rely on the same work management platform and software services to get work done. These days people integrate an abundance of cloud-based applications for authoring, storage, communication, and reference that need to interact with each other.


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With Smartsheet, teams have a platform that allows them to distribute their expertise, talents, and skills in a cross-functional manner. This gives people the right context and visibility into the work being done — not only in Smartsheet but in Dropbox, Google Suite, and Microsoft Suite — thanks to secure and seamless integration.

Siloed Teams Struggle to Innovate

Two young engineers working on a project

As business becomes ever more competitive, the best companies give employees powerful tools that automate and streamline collaboration, making it fast and easy to request and receive updates, approvals, and more. When organizations are in alignment and individuals spend less time on manual, repetitive work tasks, teams are in a better position to be creative and innovate.

Workplace innovation and strategic thinking aren’t always spent building a better product. Sometimes, people need to refine work processes to boost efficiency and velocity. Cross-functional work exposes individuals to other team’s problem-solving methodologies, perceptions, and talents. If teams are complacent in their silos, it is difficult to circulate key learnings and help them develop new skills.  


Find out how Smartsheet can improve productivity by 15% by downloading the Forrester study 


A Solution to Silos

Smartsheet enables teams to be more productive and hold each other accountable through real-time visibility into data, performance metrics, and essential information. Teams that make a habit of sharing insights and working together are able to move ideas to impact faster than ever before.

Watch this video to see how the services department at Cisco uses Smartsheet to maintain program transparency and accelerate decision-making: