7 Steps to Better Horizontal Collaboration

I recently worked with a client group in a large federal government department that was trying to establish better horizontal collaboration across the directorate. Organizational silos are a common challenge for many of our clients. Groups become so involved in their own work and priorities that they neglect to notice what’s happening in the next office. This is called ‘silo mentality’, and it tends to become a much bigger issue as organizations grow in size and complexity.

horizontal collaboration_hands with puzzle pieces
Copyright: andreypopov / 123RF Stock Photo

When communication breaks down across units, it can create inefficiencies and animosity for the organization as a whole. So how do we stop the silo mentality and learn to work better across organizational units?

Below are 7 steps you can take for better horizontal collaboration:

  1. Create a sense of shared vision. People draw inspiration from seeing where they fit in and how their work moves the organization forward. Highlight the positive contributions of all operating units and their value to the organization.
  2. Brief down and laterally, often. We focus on briefing up, but we tend to forget about briefing down and laterally. Doing this regularly will help develop a broader understanding of what’s going on across the organization. It will also raise awareness of each group’s priorities and activities. Use your staff intranet to send regular newsletters and emails, and host monthly meetings or webinars to keep everyone in the loop.
  3. Get together regularly. Groups need to come together regularly to understand current issues, share experiences and learn from each other. More interaction between groups allows staff to become better acquainted, understand the roles they play, and how they complement one another.
  4. Adopt collaborative approaches to address common issues. Establish cross-functional teams between operating units, and encourage meetings between project leads and managers to develop the most appropriate ways to work together.
  5. Get social. Give staff the opportunity to socialize and build relationships. Providing opportunities for informal interaction will allow staff to collaborate more organically on work files.
  6. Incentivize the right behaviour. Remember to recognize, reward and celebrate collaborative behaviour.
  7. Adopt strategic approaches to the movement of resources. Managers need to recognize it is useful for employees to gain experience on different files. There’s an opportunity to become more flexible and open to sharing resources and bring an end to the label “internal poaching”.

Do you have some great strategies for overcoming organizational silos? What exciting ideas do you have for improving horizontal collaboration, and how are you implementing them?

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