Dealing with market disruption: Seven strategies for breaking down silos

Executive summary

To stay competitive in the face of increasingly accelerated disruption, many companies need to rethink and retool their offerings and operations. That kind of transformation, however, requires a collaborative effort from all parts of the organization, no matter how different their processes, systems, and cultures have been in the past.

Too often, the transformation effort falls flat due to the problems that arise when disparate parts of the company fail to work together with a shared sense of mission. Most large companies have divisions, or even groups and functions within divisions, that operate in silos. This can be for good reason; in the knowledge economy, jobs often require that professionals work with people who possess similar professional skills to fulfill specific mandates. Silos can exist to harness knowledge-based skills, or specific job functions, or they can be geographic. In many industries, silos are vital to productivity. But when organizational transformation is needed, silos mean that the very parts of your company that must work together are unaccustomed to doing so, and even unable to communicate with one another because they are culturally misaligned, or inherently mistrustful and territorial. These problems can complicate change efforts, or delay or derail delivery of their benefits.

This report highlights seven common challenges that occur when a company tries to break down silos, and best practices for overcoming each of these challenges so that you can build and empower cross-functional teams. These strategies will help the organization harness the right mix of knowledge and skills needed to bring about large-scale change.


Whether done in anticipation of competitive threats or as a response, adjusting to market disruptions is often a high-stakes proposition for organizations. Failing to break down silos and disrupt the status quo is riskier. By leveraging the seven best practices described here, leaders can improve collaboration, communication, and trust between their teams and create a more effective path to growth and profitability during times of significant change. And even after the most significant changes have occurred, the process of breaking down silos will have made an organization more flexible and agile for the future. Silos may remain, but they are less likely to be rigid obstacles if a company has approached transformation this way.

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