As organizations grow, their activities are divided logically across departments that each have their own head of department. The heads of department have to ensure maximum performance, and the senior management has a clear view of who they can talk to about which subjects. The people responsible within the department bring clarity and calm. And if everything’s going well, the senior management will ensure sufficient coherency between the departments.

Unfortunately this type of organization has a tendency to become derailed. In practice, the heads of department are not adequately stimulated to constantly look at the bigger picture. Their objectives are aimed too much at their own department and the result is they end up building silos – working methods that are not beneficial for other departments are not necessarily adapted. A matrix structure can help rescue this situation, but it just feels like a bureaucracy.

Competition between departments is the norm within a silo structure. Signals are no longer picked up or used sufficiently in a turf war. And if customers stay away, it’s because the sales department is not doing its job properly. And if no visitors are coming to the stall, it’s because the marketing department is not doing its job properly. And if we can’t find good people, it’s because the HR department is not doing its job properly.

In this situation, only silo busting can rescue you. Breaking up these silos with projects can be a good start. A project looking at customer satisfaction goes further than the restrictive marketing walls. Engineers can put together a multidisciplinary team for product innovation. The entire management team is made partially responsible for the company’s employer branding.

Projects such as this are not sufficient in the long term; they just stem the bleeding for a while. To really break out of the silos in a sustainable way, the mentality of the management and the employees needs to change. Employees must gain an understanding of the company’s vision, mission and concrete objectives. They need to understand where colleagues are working from ‘over the wall’ This understanding leads to insights into their own contribution, and these insights lead to solutions that are good for the entire company and not just for a specific department. Company results improve and individual motivation increases.

You might still have to massage one issue away: The differences in performance between the departments will lessen, and a previously successful department manager can become less visible. So an ointment for dented egos can come in handy.