It's a fact of corporate life: people need to collaborate to get things done faster. In a study by Queens University of Charlotte, nearly 3 in 4 surveyed employees rate teamwork and collaboration as "very important," and yet 39% of those surveyed believe their own company doesn’t collaborate enough. Our very own 2015 Work Management Survey presented a similar result, with 34% of surveyed workers stating they were unhappy with their company’s work management process.

One Reason for the Lack of Collaboration

So why aren't more people collaborating? One major reason: corporate silos and the silo mentality. This is where groups or departments within an organization refuse to share information with others, which results in turf wars and inefficiency. Silos have been around for the last three decades and show no signs of fading away, resulting in many painful conflicts over territory ("We're the only ones who can update the website!") and transparency ("You should've told me you were done with that widget so I could start my work!").

Forbes lists the main reason why silos exist: conflicted leadership. When management cannot recognize the problem and seek to rise above it to solve it for the entire company, then you will have workers blaming the lack of systems or tools, the lack of employee training, or even the lack of worker maturity. But in reality, the only ones with the power to eliminate silos are the business leaders. If they can tear down the silos amongst themselves, then they can definitely tear down the walls company-wide.

Actions & Tools That Break Down Silos

If you're going to break down silos, you will need a mandate from management. But then you will also need the right culture and the corresponding tools that can help lay your cards on the table, so to speak.

A. Take Action for Better Collaboration

CharityVillage has a good starter list of actions you can take to get started. Among their suggestions are:

  • Improving communication and transparency—especially between departments.
  • Creating a culture of gratitude so that everyone's efforts are acknowledged and never taken for granted.
  • Sharing organizational stories so that knowledge is shared and a healthy culture is built.

Harvard Business Review suggests a Jack Welch methodology, the Work-Out Session, as a quick way to get everyone on the same page by having them all physically in the same room. You will need to focus the conversation strictly on the business issues and must ensure that the necessary stakeholders (and an executive) are present so that decisions can be acted upon immediately.

If remote work has contributed to silos, ensure that the steps you take towards better collaboration include all kinds of workers. Ice breakers for virtual meetings can help everyone feel that they are on the same page and ready to tackle issues when meeting remotely.

But if you intend to break down silos and keep them from ever building back up, you will need more than Work-Out Sessions and initial actions, you will need to establish a true culture of sharing and a culture of collaboration that pervades throughout your organization.

B. Use Tools to Facilitate Teamwork

In order to facilitate this new culture, you will need tools that are able to bridge the gaps between departments.

1. Use one tool for work. Use Wrike to increase collaboration across your entire organization. We designed Wrike to be a collaborative tool where to-do lists coexist with projects. Each department can set up its folders and organize as they want, but can easily share tasks cross-functionally when needed.

2. Use software that integrates existing tools. Of course there will always be instances when each department chooses to use different tools to get their work done. In this case, find a way to integrate the different solutions. Look for APIs (or build your own), or native integrations between software.

For example: we just released a Wrike and JIRA Two-Way Sync. This tool is powered by Unito and allows devs in JIRA to create tasks in Wrike for others to accomplish. In the same way, someone from marketing (for example) could assign a Wrike task and have it show up in an IT technician's JIRA tasks. Best of both worlds.

Overall, the task of breaking down silos between departments is a difficult one that will involve a lot more than simply buying software. There has to be executive support. There has to be a mandate to change the culture. Once this is in place, watch the walls come tumbling down.

Get Started with the Wrike and JIRA Two-Way Sync

The Wrike and JIRA Two-Way Sync brings together teams working in the world of JIRA with with teams that are operating in Wrike. This feature is part of the Enterprise plan. If you’re not a Wrike user yet, begin a free 2-week trial or reach out to our Support team for more information on this feature.