Organizational division guarantees organized individual and departmental responsibilities. Departments such as sales, marketing, customer service, human resources, engineering, finance, manufacturing, production, shipping, and quality assurance all have various functional roles that are likely to overlap. Unfortunately through these divisions, many organizations are fostering the silo mentality, the mentality of distinct functional groups focused on the set of activities within the department will lack of effort or interest in sharing information and knowledge.
It is important to keep in mind that silos have great benefits including optimization of functional and departmental goals, highlighting core competencies, and functional efficiencies per department. Each department working towards a task with a clear and distinct deliverable will be ideal in reaching specified goals; however, with limited information flow and collaboration, the cross-departmental goals will likely lack unity, collaboration, and trust. Another issue that arises with the silo mentality is that there is a high likelihood of redundancy throughout the organization leading to inefficiencies across departments, and communication challenges.
As previously mentioned, Product Managers (PM) are the product owners and knowing the various product processes is part of their ownership role. These processes include product development, manufacturing, pricing, costing, selling, supporting, and delivering. With silos and lack of informational sharing, the PM data-driven decision making will be limited. The PM will likely suffer and might even be ineffective. The most effective PMs are the ones that are actively exposed to the customers. Costumers are not limited to the people that are paying for the product, but include external and internal personals that work with building, supporting and selling the product. By being the voice of the customer, the PM must be involved and have open communication with the various departments within the organization.
So how does a PM overcome these debilitating departmental divisions?
Chances are that the silo mentality is at the core of the functional department. It might have developed in situations where conflicting leadership lead to lack of trust and knowledge sharing. Working towards a goal that can be shared and used as a common ground will be the first step to collaborate with these silo overcome departments. This is certainly not an easy task especially since PM’s are typically not managers with direct reports; however, PM’s don’t need direct reports to encourage communication. This must start with the PM sharing the vision which can refocus the direction and reduce the focus of “us against them” political departmental war.
One of the most effective strategies I have learned is to simply reach out, ask questions, meet with the individual(s), understand their goals, understand their processes and challenges, explain your goals, explain how these goals will benefit the company, how the goals will benefit the customers, and align with delivering an ultimate unified vision.
It is likely that the PM’s vast knowledge will benefit the other individual within the functional department by making their set of processes more integrated and efficient. It is also likely that many of these individuals would like to understand processes beyond their own. Knowledge sharing throughout the organization will elevate the sense of purpose. Everyone will appreciate a more effective, integrated process with reduced effort duplication.
With departments communicating the “big picture”, they will optimize and unify goals, which will lead to a collaborative and trusting community. Working as one will led to a better employee experience which will ultimately lead to a better customer experience.
The division and cycle of departmental war can be broken, but it must start with someone who will take the first, second, and mostly likely third step.
Pearlson, Keri E.; Saunders, Carol S.; Galletta, Dennis F.. Managing and Using Information Systems: A Strategic Approach, 6th Edition (Page 308). Wiley. Kindle Edition.