How to Prevent Top Team from Toxic Silo Trap

How can a business contribute to its own demise?

A team that begins as a highly motivated creative unit can quickly become an impenetrable tower, i.e. a silo.

After all, no matter how productive it is, an insulated team can’t effectively collaborate with other ones.

As organizations are made up of teams, effective collaboration is essential for organizational health and profitability.

Therefore, by “denying the opportunity to collaborate and cross-pollinate ideas, businesses contribute to their own speedy demise,” according to Pratik Dholakiya in Entrepreneur.

If you’re in danger of this fate, it’s high time to move in to action:


Here are 3 TIPS + 8 DO’s & DON’Ts to keep your team high performing while preventing it from becoming an unproductive silo:

1. Work from the same page –

DO: Define your team or project’s “big picture” goals from the beginning and re-visit them frequently.

DON’T: Leave the big picture unclear or unspoken.

­A big challenge for any team working within a larger organization is to align team or project goals with company goals. However, overarching goals and priorities are key for effective collaboration (when not shared, collaboration won’t flow).

As team lead, it’s your job as team lead to connect AND balance the dots – your creative thinking skills are critical here!

2. Get strategic about collaboration –

DO: Structure effective communication and collaboration methods into your workflow, i.e. working systems and processes.

DON’T: Duplicate work that’s already been done by others (nothing is more demotivating than learning you’ve poured time and energy into redundant steps).

To sustain positive results, informal collaboration isn’t sufficient; it needs to be formalized.

A good starting point is to assign specific tasks to specific people with specific due dates: who, what, by when?

3. Put evaluation above harmony –

Nobody likes to rock the boat. However, accurate analysis and critical evaluation is necessary to avoid silo’s best friend: Groupthink.

DO: Celebrate differences.*

DO: Model and encourage disagreement (honest feedback is essential for peak team performance).

DO: Involve your team in hard-decision making processes when possible.

DON’T: Pretend to have all the answers.

*Multi-discipline projects and cross-functional teams are great ways to foster this.



By definition, silos are not a bad thing – they’re strong, insulated, protecting.

However, they have the potential to block communication, suppress innovation and worse.

Use these 3 tips to prevent and/or reverse your high-performing team from becoming a toxic silo.

Above all, don’t assume you know best – seek outside feedback and keep asking yourself questions.

Here are 3 to ask yourself right now:

  • Why is our idea better than theirs?
  • Why shouldn’t we be open to their idea?
  • What would happen if we went with their idea instead of ours?

With these 3 SMALL questions, you’ll be 1 BIG step closer to avoiding this fate.


What additional tip/s can you provide for preventing this fate?

  • Hi Tim,
    good points!
    From a different perspektive I would call it “be” or better “stay open” and get the common vision clear. And what you sa reminds me on “the four horsemen” from the Gottman Institute.

    • Hi Frank, I like your tip, thanks! I’m not familiar with the 4 horsemen, will check them out:).

  • In a world where large global organizations try to collaborate virtually across many cultures, product lines, company departments and affiliations – silos (or the threats they could pose) are indeed one of the big corporate issues: Tim’s observations are spot on and his suggestion are indeed a very good discussion starter. I also recently came across an interesting read I wanted to share “The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers. By Gillian Tett. Simon & Schuster”. In it the author states that often a way to break down larger organizational silos could be a new venture (like Facebook) or a change in leadership who addresses and facilitates the discussion around obvious silos.