“There are too many silos in our organization.” We often hear this from clients, and it seems to be the natural order of things in most large organizations. Lots of teams and departments focusing on individual agendas with little to no understanding of what’s happening elsewhere in the organization.

From an employee perspective, these silos can mean you’re bombarded with competing messages and nothing seems to align. You’re caught in the crossfire of everybody’s urgent agendas. Your efforts may seem pointless because you can’t see the bigger picture – you’re blind to how your work connects to any larger purpose. This can create a distrust of peers and leaders, which may send culture into a tailspin – resulting in low morale and high turnover.

From a business and leadership perspective, silos make it difficult to generate results. The efforts and priorities of one department can undermine the work of another – even if it’s completely unintentional. It’s like the sails on the boat are aimed in different directions, making it nearly impossible to generate momentum. The boat might not be sinking, but it certainly isn’t going anywhere very quickly, and it might be going in circles.

Do organizational silos impact customers? Definitely. They can create inconsistent customer experiences that destroy efforts toward building the brand. Customers may be doing business with you because they have no other options or it’s too much of a hassle to make a change.

What would it look like if the silos were demolished? Is it even possible in a large organization? Where would you begin?

Brand Alignment Can Break Down Silos

It starts with the brand and a commitment within an organization to align every effort behind delivery of the customer promise – a practice we call Internal-External Brand Alignment. Recently we published an article on the Characteristics of Aligned Brands. Openness is one of the characteristics, and it’s something that truly sets apart an aligned organization. This openness can put an end to the organizational silos by focusing efforts on the true mission of the business – delivering the customer promise.

In an aligned organization, every effort of the business is approached through the context of the brand promise. This becomes the thread that is woven through every action or intention – creating cohesion and consistency. Processes or efforts that don’t support the brand promise become easy to spot and can be eliminated or redirected, which minimizes distractions.

There is a shared sense of purpose, and teams proactively cooperate with each other. Employees can directly see how their accountabilities contribute to delivering the brand promise. There is less self-preservation and more ownership of the organization’s success. Gaps and breakdowns can be addressed with honesty and candor – which minimizes the drama and gossip that damage a positive culture.

Aligned Leaders Can Break Down Silos

The leaders within an aligned organization deliver consistent messages to their teams. Initiatives and strategies within individual departments line up with each other and share common themes and goals that support delivery of the brand promise. The openness within a brand-aligned organization creates a sense of momentum that underlies everything and drives positive business results. Decisions can be made quicker and change can happen easier.

It may seem that an organization without silos is a completely unrealistic goal, but it’s absolutely possible by aligning behind the brand promise. To make it work, an organization must approach brand alignment as an ongoing practice rather than an initiative or program with a finite end-point. It requires a rigorous and dedicated commitment to make brand-alignment a top priority at every level of the organization. The silos won’t come down overnight, but every effort toward brand-alignment serves to weaken the barriers, creating an openness that positively impacts culture, brand and business results.

To read about other characteristics of aligned brands, be sure to check out these articles:

The Power of the Customer Promise: Characteristics of Aligned Brands

Focused: Why Customers and Employees are Drawn to Focused Companies

Agile: How Agile Organizations Embrace Change

Confident: How Confident Brands Break all the Rules

Magnetic: To come

Resilient: How Resilient Brands Recover from the Unexpected

About Alice Wright

As Director of Content Strategy, Alice directs projects while also designing program strategy and instructional content. She has more than 22 years of experience managing integrated strategic marketing, communication and training programs for globally recognized brands. Some of her current and past clients include Nike, Sunglass Hut, Safeway, Banfield Pet Hospital, Office Depot, Unilever, LensCrafters, EMC, Intel, Microsoft, Dell, adidas, Joann Stores and others. Alice earned her bachelor’s degree from the School of Journalism and Communication at University of Oregon. She lives with her husband and teenage son in Portland, Oregon where she loves exploring the outdoors and being a soccer/band mom.