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Learning Organization and Dissolving of Functional Silos

Miomir Arandelovic, DBA Candidate

Faculty: Dr. Ming Luong
Silos or silos mentality has been a term for a business issue that was discussed at many
boardroom tables over the last several decades (Cufaude, 2009). In spite of many approaches
and organizational efforts, this issue has not disappeared over the years and has been presenting
growing pain for most organizations of all sizes (Gleeson, 2013).
Silos are usually defined as groups of employees that operate as autonomous units within
an organization, which show a reluctance to integrate their knowledge and efforts with
employees from the other parts of the organization. Silos are common for most companies and
are also related to a concept of turfs and turf wars. They are not beneficial for the company, as
they cause duplication and waste of resources, decreased productivity, reduced morale of
employees and the degradation of a productive company culture (Gleeson, 2013).
There had been many attempts to analyze and address silos problems, but often they are
limited to most apparent, but secondary concerns, such as immature employees, lack of basic
training, or simply the inability for some employees to play nicely with one another. The
attempts to dissolve silos mentality are thus also often focused to various types of employee
education that direct people to reach out and share the knowledge. However, such approach
doesn't address a root of the silos issue, as human efforts are naturally directed towards of
tangent towards work goals and interdepartmental communication works only when it is
pragmatically supportive for a common purpose, not as an activity by itself. Ad-hoc efforts of the
individuals are valuable part of the corporate culture, but not a substitute for systemic efforts to
ensure an inter-department communication infrastructure that can help collaboration and dissolve
silos issues (Gleeson, 2013).
A major difficulty in addressing silos effect is that its root commonly doesn't lie in the
immature or over-competitive attitude, but can be more often found in an excess of domain
ownership and a pride over functional responsibility Departments as well as any group of people
do need a level of autonomy and separate identity in their work, as a part of the structured

responsibilities of the organization. Individuals within a given division thus tend to interact and
bond with other employees in their own area more than with employees outside them (Cufaude,
2009). Uniqueness and a pursuit of excellence of the department or any part of an organization
thus support the overall company productivity. However, the issue arises when the activities of
some groups becomes misaligned, disrupting a balance between their uniqueness and a sense of
belonging or oneness with the organization (Arandelovic, 2014).
The most important leadership efforts to address the silos issue thus lie in the
establishment of the larger whole, with which departments would identify, along with a
formation of the unified work front and the communication infrastructure that enables mutual
support of different departments. According to Lencioni (2002), If you could get all the people
in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market,
against any competition, at any time.
According to Pedler et al. (1997) and Enterprise 2.0 premises, the learning organization,
that aspires to a sustainable development and to remain competitive in the modern business
environment, should be structured similar to communities that employees can feel a commitment
to. Cufaude (2009) and Gleeson (2013) suggest that cultural changes which can augment silos
dissolution can be:
Create a unified vision or common work front for the company

Make clear what is the role of each department towards achieving a common goal
Cultivate Systems Thinking, and a holistic view of the overall company operation
Organize meetings and conversations between departments
Make sure the processes for mutual support are in place
Motivate and Incentivize
However, such cultural and unstructured efforts should be also supported by operational
infrastructure at the various layers of company (Kimberling, 2012), such as:
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) to automate and optimize resource allocation

Product Management driven by cross-functional team from different business areas

Collaborative project management to plan and coordinate complex projects
Collaborative project management is especially import for the organization whose
products and services require continual development to stay competitive on the market. In the
modern fast pacing environment, management is not regarded as an activity reserved solely for
managers of the separate teams, but are comprised from , sub-plans, that are networked and
synchronized to tie all partners into the system of planning and control and to promote a common
understanding of overall planning (Gupta, 2015).
Collaborative project management makes extensive use of localized control loops that
help break complex projects into smaller, more tangible, sub-systems which are then assigned to
members of the relevant departments. To ensure synchronization, it is necessary to have a central
database and knowledge repository that could provide a quick reference to project planning data
and ongoing information to all the project members wherever they are located.

Figure 1. Coordinated Project View, adapted from (n.d.)

Various modern cross-department project management solutions, such as commercial

Projection Coordinator (, n.d.), presented on Figure 1 above, or open
source solutions such as Freedcamp or Trello (Burger, 2015) are directed towards contextual,
intuitive and visual access to the important shared information and unobtrusive notifications.
Such approach ensures integration of the overall organizational efforts in both radial direction,
where teams can rely on the shared knowledge and cross-departmental help and tangential
direction, where each of the individual tasks contributes to the achievement of the unified
company goals.
Arandelovic, M. (2014). Lao Zi's Theory of Everything. University of Boston, MA. May 2014.
Cufaude, J. (2009). Break Out of the Silo Mentality. Retrieved from:
Gleeson, B. (2013). The Silo Mentality: How To Break Down The Barriers. Retrieved from:
Gupta, P. (2015). Is Collaboration the Secret to Success for the Next Generation Company:
Retrieved from:
Kimberling, E. (2012). Breaking Silos: How to Use an ERP Implementation to Increase
Interaction. Retrieved from:
Lencioni, P. (2002). The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, Jossey-Bass, April
Pedler, M., Burgogyne, J., Boydell, T. (1997). The Learning Company: A strategy for
sustainable development. 2nd Ed. London; McGraw-Hill.