Silo mentality is one of the biggest dangers of working in an online environment and can be extremely detrimental to the efficiency of the team. Silo mentality isn’t inherent to these environments, however, and by using online whiteboards to inspire collaboration teams can effectively combat silo mentality.

In this article, we will run down our favorite templates and exercises that use online whiteboards to combat silo mentality. If you want to learn more on how to integrate online whiteboards into a virtual workshop or design thinking strategies, you can check out our posts on those here.

Teams collaborating efficiently using online whiteboards.

What is Silo Mentality?

If you aren’t familiar with Silo mentality or simply need a refresher, we define silo mentality as:

Silo Mentality is a mindset of exclusivity that exists when people in different teams refuse to share information with other departments or other team members. This restrictive attitude seals off information and work progress, creating an isolated work environment for teams and often sees employees hoarding knowledge for their own benefit.

The presence of Silo Mentality will cause people to be much more restrictive when sharing information, causing a breakdown in collaborative communication and effectively reducing the efficiency of the workplace as a whole. This attitude is most often observed between members of competing teams/the teams themselves, where some work may overlap and require collaboration.

Silo mentality can be really dangerous for teams to fall into, and especially when working online it can be really easy to slip into these habits of isolation. To combat silo mentality, your team must adopt a collaboration platform where they can work together in real-time. Online whiteboards are the pinnacle of collaboration between peers and teams, and below we will outline some of the best exercises and templates that help combat silo mentality.

Strategies to Combat Silo Mentality

Silo mentality is usually caused by a breakdown in communication that leads to isolation in the workplace. There are many strategies to combat this, but the most effective is the adoption of an online whiteboard.

Online whiteboards helping teams combat silo mentality.

Using an Online Whiteboard

Online whiteboards are the best tool to engage entire teams, even companies, in the same space and engage with any collaborative activity. Without an online whiteboard, this is one of the hardest things to accomplish in the workspace and can be borderline impossible. Not only is this hard to do without an online whiteboard, but when you find your team stuck in silo mentality, it becomes even more difficult.

Online whiteboards provide many different things to the workplace that help break silo mentality, the foremost of which is the ability to communicate in real-time with everyone on the board. This is something that is often lost online, and using online whiteboards helps people communicate tremendously.

Aside from communication, online whiteboards help combat silo mentality by engaging in collaboration sessions that anyone can immediately pick up and use. Collaboration is something that is non-existent when working in silos and can be improved upon greatly when people are given an interface that emphasizes their collaborative contributions. 

Sometimes the ability to collaborate is hindered not by any real barrier, but simply due to the inefficiency of doing so. Having a workspace that is divided and not willing to work with each other makes collaboration extremely hard. When given a visual collaboration tool, however, collaboration becomes very efficient and people are more incentivized to work with each other.

When teams can aggregate information and share it with the entire business, everyone can better understand the inner working of the teams and align themselves to the shared endpoints. These reasons make using online whiteboards the pinnacle of collaboration in the workplace and a suitable tool to combat silo mentality.

Use Weekly Kanbans

The Kanban framework is one of the easiest templates to instigate collaboration with your team. It is a task-based organization tool that allows teams to view the tasks required to finish the current project and align these tasks with the overall.

Besides being a good task organization tool, kanbans help teams collaborate and communicate regularly, which is a big first step to breaking down silo mentality. By conducting weekly Kanban analyses you can create an environment of communication where people feel enabled in working with each other regularly and collaborating on this board with each other when working through a project.

By creating an environment of collaboration and communication people are tied closely to each other when working and become more attached to each other’s work product. When people have a stake in each other and begin to care about not only the shared success of the team but the individual success of the team members, the negative effects of silo mentality will surely begin to dissipate.

Fresco's Kanban Template
Fresco‘s Kanban Template

Conduct Regular Retrospectives

Similar to using regular Kanbans, conducting weekly retrospectives is the best way to begin a conversation about how the team is working together. Regardless of their structure, retrospective templates always look at previous projects and analyze what went well, what went wrong, and how that can be changed moving forward.

By analyzing previous projects people can begin a dialogue of how they work together and what they can do to improve their work going forward. Especially when working to combat silo mentality, the most important thing for people to do is increase their communication. Once people begin communicating more frequently, it becomes easier for them to break down barriers to their work environment.

Retrospectives not only increase people’s ability to communicate frequently with one another, but their real advantage is optimizing the workflow. Teams stand to gain a lot from analyzing their previous work, and these takeaways can take many different forms such as their interpersonal relations, the timing of completion, the prioritization of tasks – the list goes on. 

By improving workflows going forward, retrospectives create a space of communication and improvement that enables people to inherently combat silo mentality.

Create Goal Alignment

One of the best things that online whiteboards bring to the workspace is quick and easy visual collaboration. When people operate in the same workspace, they can easily see each other’s thought processes and understand how important their work is to the efficiency of the entire team. When this knowledge clicks, you will see people snap out of their silo mentality.

A specific strategy to combat silo mentality through online whiteboards is to create goal alignment for the entire team. Creating goal alignment means everyone has a north star that they’re working towards, and it can only be reached when everyone works together to get there. Online whiteboards make it incredibly easy to create common goals and revisit them as you move closer and closer to their completion, giving people a shared vision to look forward to.

When teams share goals, their work will become more collaborative and they will naturally start to combat silo mentality. This is a practice made possible by online whiteboards and is super efficient to increase communication and collaboration in the workplace.

Fresco's Retrospective Template
Fresco’s Retrospective Template

Build Interdepartmental Trust

A huge barrier to collaboration, and a key piece of the perpetuation of silo mentality, is the lack of trust in the workplace. Whether it be a new member, general skepticism, or previous experience, there are a ton of reasons that certain people might not trust a team member or another department. While in certain cases this can be understandable, in general, it is a huge barrier to an efficient work environment and one of the leading causes of silo mentality.

One great way to alleviate these trust issues and build inter-departmental trust is to educate people on the inner workings of other teams/departments. Sometimes, people distrust what they don’t understand, and informing them of the inner workings of other departments may allow them to trust the people that work there more and feel more comfortable collaborating with them.

After you take the first step to combat silo mentality, you can proceed in engaging in more frequent collaboration, and even create leisure activities for people to participate in to build a better connection within the team.

Having cross-functional teams is a huge advantage when trying to combat silo mentality and can benefit everyone involved.

Conclusion

Silo mentality can be a workplace killer, but when you have an understanding of how to diagnose it and how to combat it, the solution becomes very achievable. For many teams, online whiteboards are the key to putting together a strategy to combat silo mentality and enable exercises that help teams collaborate with ease. Hopefully, this guide helped provide some strategies to best combat silo mentality with online whiteboards, and you can check out the QuestionPro blog if you’re interested in learning about a customer service roadmap.


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