An email recently arrived in my inbox pointing to an article that argued,
"Functional, operational and professional silos and mental ‘walls’ need to be demolished."
This is a perennial cry. Managers. consultants, and others have complained for years about this so-called "silo mentality". Yet still it persists. Why might that be?
To begin with, the tendency for people to act in this way is designed-in during formal organizationsal design projects. People are brought together to achieve things that they couldn't achieve alone. And, to enable them to do so, they are divided up (or divide themselves up) into separate divisions, departments, teams, roles, etc. This requires them both to strive to excel in terms of their specialist role contributions and, at the same time, to collaborate for 'the greater good' - however this might be constructed.
More significantly, though, 'silo behaviour' is a natural dynamic of the complex social process of everyday interaction. People seek to go on together in the midst of competing demands, needs and expectations. And they aim to do this in ways that preserve their sense of identity and self-worth; sustain their important relationships; enable them to be seen as competent in the eyes of significant others; and so on.
So 'silo behaviour' is one expression of the normal politics of everyday organizational life.