Silos are one of the perennial problems facing organisations, both large and small. Different departments have their individual objectives and often fail to communicate adequately with each other, which slows down and reduces productivity and can have a major impact on business growth. Worse, they develop rivalries which stand in the way of effective co-ordination and damage the attainment of the overall goals of the organisation. When the Financial Times is reporting that the UK's productivity is slowing to an alarming rate it is essential organisations find ways to tackle the cultural issues within their teams to stay ahead of the curve.
A mentoring programme, shared across the organisation, can be a simple and effective way to break down these departmental silos.
The silo-busting impact of mentoring is easy to understand. Through the mentoring discussions, individuals learn about the challenges faced by other departments and the skills used to address them. Members of other departments move from being seen as “outsiders” towards being seen as members of one larger team. Other departments are no longer viewed as irrelevant to my own work, and become seen as a vital part of the total organisation. Individual relationships of trust and open communication are formed.
These goals are what many cultural change programmes want to achieve, but struggle to do so! And all of this can be done organically, without a set of heavy-handed and time-consuming central interventions.
One possible fear holding back organisations from adopting this approach is that cross-departmental mentoring may damage the line management relationship, but this fear is misplaced. Mentoring conversations focus on the big picture, corporate goals and how to navigate the organisation. So there need be no blurring of accountability, at the same time as achieving a boost to overall organisational effectiveness.
To achieve the silo-busting effect, the mentoring programme must be organised in an appropriate way.
1. The mentoring programme should be open to all staff across a number of departments, and mentor and mentees in each relationship should come from different departments.
2. The focus for the mentoring discussions should be either corporate or pastoral in nature, rising above individual departmental objectives.
3. The mentoring programme must be rewarding for both mentor and mentee. Spending time working together should not only be emotionally rewarding, which mentoring relationships often are by nature, but should also be recognised in the two individuals professional performance reviews.
These ground rules can be written into a suitable mentoring platform, such as Wisetree, and then the programme can be quickly and effectively rolled out.