Cross-silo leadership

Today the vast majority of innovation and business-development opportunities lie in the interfaces between functions, offices or organisations. The integrated solutions that most customers want — but companies wrestle with developing — require horizontal collaboration.

The value of horizontal teamwork is widely recognised. Employees who can reach outside their silos to find colleagues with complementary expertise learn more, sell more and gain skills faster.

One way to break down silos is to redesign the formal organisational structure. But that approach has limits: It’s costly, confusing and slow. That’s why we’ve focused on identifying activities that facilitate boundary crossing. We’ve found that people can be trained to see and connect with pools of expertise throughout their organisations and to work better with colleagues who think very differently from them. The core challenges of operating effectively at interfaces are simple: learning about people on the other side and relating to them. But simple does not mean easy.

By: Amy C Edmondson and Sujin Jang

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