Transitioning from Organisational ‘Silos’ to Super Teams

November 29, 2021

Our opinion this month comes from Shivani Maitra, Partner and Private Sector Leader for Human Capital at Deloitte UK. She argues the impact of siloed structures on organisations is threefold, and in order to overcome these issues businesses must start by shifting their focus away from output to outcomes.

Businesses today operate in a complex and competitive environment. Organisations have been adapting to the steady stream of digital disruption over the past few years and coupled with the overnight impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has created an environment that has have forced them to re-evaluate the way individuals, teams and, ultimately, organisations work.

A key trope of the pre-COVID-19 workplace is siloed working – a challenge for productivity as we look to the future of work. However, organisations can no longer simply ‘keep pace’ with what others are doing to overcome it. Instead, must ask themselves: how can we stay ahead of changes to the way we work?

The future of work evolving before us brings together “Work”, “Workforce” and “Workplace”, and is disrupting organisation models in ways previously unimaginable.

A siloed structure impacts organisational efficiency at three levels:

  • Customers want digitally enabled, personalised experiences with easy access to information and multiple buying options. Organisational silos prevent the high degree of functional collaboration needed to deliver these experiences.
  • Employees want opportunities to develop, seamless and intuitive access to information, and crucially, a sense of purpose in their work. Siloed organisations make communication and working across functional groups very complex and challenging, which limits the view of how work outputs drive better outcomes for the organisation.
  • Business Operations end up being highly sub-optimal due to limited information flow between functions and hierarchical roadblocks, all of which ultimately impact business agility and customer responsiveness.

The first step towards addressing these challenges is to shift the view of productivity from being output driven to outcome driven. This shift requires organisations to introduce more flexible and network-based ways of working, enabled by cross functional collaboration and increased autonomy. However, to consistently drive meaningful outcomes in a constantly changing environment, organisational constructs need to further evolve into empowered, multidisciplinary ‘super teams’ aligned to the delivery of a specific purpose or mission. These teams should be infused with progressive technology, especially AI, to accelerate the delivery of transformative business results.

Where do you start?

  1. Understand the formal and informal networks that exist in your organisation: how does work get done, and who are the key influencers and collaborators? This will inform the structural shifts needed and how teams should be re-oriented.
  2. Be clear on the outcomes that are most critical to the business and how they align to the overarching strategy. This is critical for removing functional silos and building teams with the expertise to drive these outcomes.
  3. Take a phased approach by following the mantra, “protect the core; disrupt around the edges”. Start with parts of the business most threatened by disruption to build the momentum needed to transform the whole organisation.
  4. Ensure your operations are set up to support the parts of the business you are transforming – including governance, technology and performance management.
  5. Enhance transparency, empower employees to make decisions so bottlenecks can be removed, and decision-making is faster.
  6. Stay focused on employee morale and well-being, so employees continue to feel valued as the organisation evolves.

The capability to break down silos and build agility exists in most businesses. It takes strong leadership with clear vision and commitment to unlock that capability and build a truly adaptable organisation.