Shehab Beram A purpose-driven technologist, product manager, and consultant. I write essays that help you get smarter at your product management game.

Working in silos: Meaning and strategies for cross-functional collaboration

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Working In Silos Meaning

Success products aren’t built by one person or even by one team. Instead, they rely on efficient cross-functional collaboration to make it through the development process and grow into a mature product.

In order to do this, your organization needs to prioritize a culture that encourages collaboration and breaks down the boundaries between teams.

Departmental silos often inhibit collaboration, which leads to challenges for product managers who count on input from multiple teams to ensure the success of their product. As barriers appear, creativity suffers and a fragmented work environment forms. Ultimately, this slows down the pace of development and quality of your product.

In this article, you will learn what silos are, how they are caused, and strategies for breaking them.

Table of contents

What are silos?

Silos are the obstacles and barriers that occur between the different teams within a company. These silos usually break the flow of collaborations and inhibit the transmission of information.

A siloed environment slows down a product team. For instance, siloes between the product team and the product marketing team can negatively hinder the two teams from building and executing the product’s go-to-market strategy.

Another example would be a silo between the product team and the leadership. This can prevent the product team from understanding the overall strategic direction of the product, leading to confusion regarding next steps.

Each of these miscommunications slows down the whole company.

What causes silos?

Before jumping into solutions, let’s first understand the major drivers of departmental silos. Silos can happen within companies of any size and type. They often result from:

Lack of shared goal

Companies without a shared vision or clear value proposition can turn their employees into working machines. When employees lack a sense of purpose they begin to view their work only as a way to keep their position, instead of wanting to actively make an impact on the organization.

This is one of the most common causes of organizational silos, but you can prevent this from occurring by creating an environment where individuals believe in the company and the work they contribute.

Flawed organizational structure/hierarchy

Some companies have a very complex structure that makes the product team move slowly because there are less synergies between the various roles. Often, this impacts the teams directly related to the product, such as the product marketing and design teams, who rely on information coming in from other departments.

Having departments work alone causes slowness and difficulties down the line and can seriously inhibit the development of your product. PMs cannot operate in isolation. More complicated organizational structures require much more effective management.

Inadequate incentive and reward system

Some companies offer rewards and incentives that focus on individual output, rather than overall organizational or product goals. For example, some companies would measure the performance of product managers based on the number of features they launched, PRD, user stories they wrote, and successful sprints that ran.

In reality, the emphasis should be on product goals, like increasing retention by 10 percent or establishing an acquisition pipeline that generates 10 thousand new users a month. These help to create a reward system centered around the product and team, as opposed to individualized output.

Other reasons

Silos can also develop from conflicting objectives between departments and teams, limited buy-in from leadership for a cross-functional culture, a lack of transparency and access to initiatives, data owned by other departments, incorrect processes, and confusion regarding roles and responsibilities.

Each of these issues exposes a weakness in communication that will inhibit the success of your product.

How to break silos

Breaking silos can be a lengthy and demanding task. However, from a product team stance you can minimize the gap by having:

A single source of truth

You should keep everything related to the product in one place. All related documentation like user manuals tasks, product backlog with user stories, previous user research initiatives, and release plans should live in a centralized location that enables easy access for all team members.

To break silos, this shouldn’t be limited to only product teams. Other teams like marketing, sales, and customer support should be using the same product to document everything and manage their own projects.


Transparency is the key when it comes to eliminating silos. Other teams should have complete visibility of product initiatives and vice-versa. This will help teams come to alignment on what other departments are working on and have planned.

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Having a dynamic tool with a feature to comment and mention helps add interactivity and allows all stakeholders to interact with each other and see updates asynchronously.

All hands syncs

Product leadership should host a monthly or even quarterly all-hands meeting to break silos. It will help align all stakeholders on the major problems and the strategic direction of the company and brainstorm initiatives and solutions to solve the problems and move quickly as one team. An all-hands meeting can serve as a perfect tool to share updates from every team and generate action points that need to be executed by other teams.

Workshops for cross-functional collaboration

Workshops provide an opportunity for you to teach teams how to work cross-functionally. The goal should be to teach your team the best techniques to work with other teams collaboratively.

In the workshops you can cover skills like building relationships, continued knowledge sharing, shared ownerships and KPIs, regular sync meetings, and collaborative business planning.

Shared OKRs and KPIs

If you want to force teams to work together, collaboratively plan shared quarterly objectives with key results and let the teams figure out how they can achieve the results together.

OKRs and KPIs, when shared between teams, will foster a culture of collaboration and will encourage teams to leverage each other’s expertise, break down barriers, and achieve their common business outcomes.

Last thoughts

Organizational silos are the biggest threat to product success. They slow down the product team because they hinder the cross-functional engagement needed to build products seamlessly.

Silos lead to inefficient decision-making, lack of customer-centricity, fragmented work environment, and misalignment of organization and product goals. Breaking down departmental silos by fostering a collaborative culture can help launch quality products.

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Shehab Beram A purpose-driven technologist, product manager, and consultant. I write essays that help you get smarter at your product management game.

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