7 Cost-Effective Ways for Business Leaders to Improve Communication and CollaborationGreg Jerralds
March 30, 2009 — 2,919 views
The Silo Effect
Some business leaders may argue that it's not important for every employee to be involved in, or even informed about the company's business strategy, financial position or other seemingly "executive-exclusive" information. But, my experience tells me that when companies strangle, or in some cases, sever the critical lines of communication and collaboration amongst its employees, the result can be catastrophic.
Poor communication and collaboration causes employees to become disconnected from the business altogether, which places a company at a severe disadvantage. What's truly unfortunate is that those same employees, who are robbed of vital information and opportunities to collaborate, generally prefer to have more involvement, empowerment and accountability.
Employees are often found entangled in a web of silos and barriers when denied open lines of communication. As a result, those talented and skillful employees have very little, if any, knowledge of what actually happens outside of their specific area; they become true victims of the Silo Effect! Although many companies acknowledge silos exist, they often struggle in breaking down the barriers.
In the case of most silos, departments tend to develop their own unique set of 'work-a-rounds' and creative processes to get the job done. When this occurs, it generally takes employees more time and resources to complete the work (greater operating costs). In addition, it often takes departments much longer to realize internal problems, errors and missed opportunities, which lead to increased costs and negative impacts on customer and client satisfaction.
Some business leaders believe that the extent of their responsibility is to ensure their department runs well. They believe that it's up to their peers to achieve the same level of success within their department. This couldn't be further from the truth! In fact, it's that kind of narrow-focused leadership mentality that cripples 'great' companies, brings 'good' companies to their knees, and literally stops promising 'startup' companies in their tracks. Business leaders beware!
Here's the good news; it's not too late for business leaders to open the lines of communication and collaboration. From my book, "The Leader's Guide To Performance Management: Building Organizational Excellence One Employee at a Time," here are seven cost-effective ways to improve communication and collaboration to get you started.
7 Ways To Improve Communication and Collaboration
1. Develop a "top-down" culture that encourages and rewards open communication and collaboration.
This is where the C-level executives come in! It starts at the top, and then must be driven down throughout the entire organization. Without sustainable top executive commitment and support, steps 2 through 7 will be difficult to achieve.
2. Share the corporate strategy and vision with every employee.
Don't just send one email... create posters, add it to company newsletters, etc. For employees to truly catch on, and most importantly, believe that their company is serious about success, the message has to become ingrained within the culture.
3. Regularly communicate corporate initiatives, expectations, and results to every employee.
Don't just limit this vital information to employees within a particular department. Share it with every employee. Develop a corporate scorecard; one that lists the top 3-5 goals or initiatives, and then share it. Insure middle managers are helping hourly employees connect their job and goals with the corporate initiatives.
4. Align division and department goals with your corporate strategy.
This is a vital step, and one that requires some quality time and focus. In some cases, you may realize that some department-level goals must be modified or eliminated all together. Remember, if your department is focusing on the wrong goals, your company will have a tough time realizing its full potential.
5. Share financial results (both good and bad) with all employees.
Many leaders are afraid to share financial information with employees at all levels. However, if you truly want your workforce to perform less like employees and more like entrepreneurial-minded, strategic partners, then share your financials and explain how they apply!
6. Create and deploy a department-level balanced scorecard.
The balanced scorecard must effectively align merit, bonuses and other monetary reward systems to performance, quality assurance, operational efficiencies and customer delight results...at a minimum. Explain the connection, and then share the results on a consistent basis.
7. Celebrate successes (both big and small)!
This helps to reinforce the company's commitment to the strategy as well as its importance. Be sure to promote a culture that encourages learning from mistakes, and rewards calculated risk-taking.
In today's competitive global marketplace, business survival depends upon the effort, commitment and drive of the entire organization. That organization, fueled by every employee, every division, every goal, every objective and every strategy, must encourage and maintain a constant flow of information to truly realize its full potential.
With so many businesses downsizing, outsourcing, and running excessively lean operations, it's often utter chaos and seems virtually impossible to get employees together. And, with department leaders and hourly employees wearing so many hats just to keep the business running, making the transition to providing greater communication and collaboration won't be easy. But, business leaders can, and must overcome these barriers to remain competitive, increase customer satisfaction, and meet the growing demands of today's marketplace.
About the Author
Greg Jerralds is with Profit InnerCircle.com. He is the author of the book, "The Leader's Guide to Performance Management" and co-author of "The Best Kept Profit Secret."
Greg is available for media interviews, speaking engagements, on-site training, consultations, and teleseminars and webinars. He can be reached at, 210.497.1948 ext. 102, or [email protected]