Covid-19: The Data on Performing Under Pressure
August 28, 2020
Into the Pitlane
September 4, 2020
Show all

Is Remote Working Sending People Back into their Silos?

The sudden shift to Remote Working threatens hard-won gains in cross-functional collaboration.

In recent years many organizations have made real progress in breaking down silos. However, there is now growing evidence of a resurgence in siloed-thinking and remote working is being blamed.

In this series called ‘Performance Under Pressure’ we explore the impact of Covid-19 and Remote working on the success of critical projects and vital teams.

Why is it happening?

Why is it remote working threatens to undo the real gains achieved in cross-functional collaboration? Well, there are many factors at play – can you spot any of them in your organization?

  • In a crisis, people tend to focus more on their immediate problems, the walls often go up and people turn to protecting what they have.
  • High levels of uncertainty and anxiety are not the ideal environment for effective collaboration. Sharing and collaboration inevitably suffers.
  • With increased pressure on budgets and resources – people have turned to look after their own departmental or team interests first.
  • Organizational priorities have shifted dramatically since the crisis began, this has major implications for the projects and initiatives that are being undertaken. In particular many cross-functional projects with a longer term payback find it hard to compete for attention with other more pressing/immediate areas of concern.
  • Focus and alignment is both the greatest opportunity and threat to cross-functional collaboration. At a time of crisis, people need a clear set of priorities that will unite them beyond the short term.
  • Zoom-fatigue is alive and well – executives are complaining about too many online meetings and a decline in their effectiveness. Zoom, Slack or MS Teams can be as much part of the problem, as the solution – our data suggests these could be draining up to 1.9 days per week per manager.
  • People have become mere strangers to each other since remote working started. As one of our network partners put it ‘only now are we realizing the value and importance of social contact, even informal conversations around the coffee area or desk, make the organization run smoother’.
  • For many managers their window on the business is narrowing. – the performance gains and losses leaders pick up on when they drop by desks or walk the corridors are lost. As one client puts it, “we are not seeing the micro-interactions among our people and across other teams”.

Where can you see siloed thinking emerging?

Cross-functional collaboration is one of almost 100 interconnected performance-related variables that we enable teams to analyze, optimise and track.  It is key to performance under pressure. 

Is remote working nudging your people back into their silos?

Why does it matter?

‘If we all pull together we can get through this crisis’ said the Division Head with confidence. ‘Indeed we can emerge from it stronger and even more resilient’ he added.

Today’s complex problems (and there are none more complex that a pandemic) cannot be solved by specialists sitting in silos.  They require pooling expertise and engaging multiple perspectives.

Most organizational initiatives (of any importance) span multiple departments and functions. Whether it is implementing new systems or taking a new product to market, cross-functional collaboration is key to making it happen. This is particularly the case where speed is required – nothing slows things down like the traditional inter-departmental requests, handovers and approvals.

Most leaders get the importance of cross-functional collaboration and have made silo-busting a priority. They have given cross-functional collaboration a real boost, driving initiatives that criss-cross the traditional hierarchical boundaries of the organization. While significant progress has been made, it hasn’t always been easy – as those executives who find their diaries full of internal meetings will tell.

Where will the implications of silos be felt most?

Want help with cross-functional collaboration or any other aspect of performing under pressure? Talk to us,

Leave a Reply