Culture

How to Break Down Silos: A U.S. Military Formula for Today’s Business Execs

By

Jason Bodin

| Jul 14, 2017

Some business leaders find that “silos” develop within their organization, where departments do not communicate effectively with one another, hindering efficiency (particularly in interdepartmental goals and projects). Implementing interdisciplinary task forces when appropriate can give your organization the agility necessary to innovate and respond to external challenges.

In Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey, just 11% of survey respondents stated that they understood how to build “the organization of the future.” Deloitte notes that one key element of a forward-facing organization is an emphasis on successfully implemented interdisciplinary teams.

A focus on this interdisciplinary teamwork doesn’t require moving away from a traditional business model, but it does allow increased agility and efficiency by encouraging interdepartmental cooperation, no matter the size of your organization

Deloitte refers to the United States Department of Defense (DOD) as one organization that makes excellent use of its teams. With over 7 million personnel in total, the U.S. military has developed agile teams based on thorough information about employee skills and experience – no small feat for an organization of that size!

Whether you have 70 employees or 7 million, you can prevent the silo effect and improve your organization’s efficiency and agility by taking a cue from the U.S. military’s successful team-based structure.

Tracking Employee Skills and Experience

The U.S. DOD keeps detailed record of the skills and specialties of each member, including a history of their service and any relevant non-DOD skills. Levels of experience, responsibility and authority are recorded in a way that everyone in the organization recognizes.

Because of this, the DOD is able to coordinate agile teams based on a particular assignment or project. These teams achieve highly targeted goals. Once a deployment or another project is completed, these teams can be re-formed or new teams can be developed relatively easily because of the detailed data.

Creating Agile Teams for Specific Goals

It’s important to know what skill sets and experience are available within your employee pool in order to make and break teams quickly. And because the teams the DOD creates are based on experience and expertise, they can work to accomplish very specific goals.

One key element of the DOD’s creating, disbanding and re-creating of teams is job security. Military personnel know that if they are assigned to a team or project, they will not lose their jobs once that project is over. Instead, they will be added to another team where their insight and experience can make an impact.

This creates an agility to the DOD organizational structure that rarely is paralleled in the business world.

Applying This to Your Business

What does this mean for your business? For starters, the success of the DOD’s team-based organization demonstrates that interdisciplinary teams can be used effectively, even in a very large organization.

Their teamwork is enabled by up-to-date, robust information on employee skills and experience to allow the creation of the right teams to solve specific problems. Often these are project-based teams that may reform or disband after the completion of the project while maintaining job security.

Having a reliable record of the skills and experience of your employees gives you the flexibility to put the right people to work solving a problem, even if they don’t typically work together. In a quickly changing business world, looking to the U.S. Department of Defense as an example of successful interdepartmental teamwork can help your organization find more agile and effective solutions to the challenges you face.

About the Author

Jason Bodin

Jason Bodin has been the communications pulse for a number of organizations, including Paycom, where he serves as director of public relations and corporate communications. He helped launch Paycom’s blog, webinar platform and social media channels. He aided in the development of Paycom’s tool to assist organizations in complying with the Affordable Care Act, one of the largest changes in health care the country has seen. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Bodin previously worked for ESPN and FoxSports. In his free time, he enjoys adventuring with his family, reading and strengthen his business acumen.

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