How To Change Culture From Working in Silos to Working Collaboratively

By: Stephan Miller - Guest Contributor on January 19, 2024
On this page:

Collaboration is key in today's world, yet many companies still struggle with teams working in silos. As a small business leader, you've likely experienced the fragmentation that occurs when departments don't communicate, and knowledge isn't shared across your organization. The consequences can include duplicated work, slower operations, and missed innovations.

Shifting to a collaborative culture can feel challenging, but it doesn't have to be. With a commitment to reinforce collaborative behaviors, you can break down silos for good. This means your teams will share ideas freely, leverage each other's talents, and jointly move your organization forward.

This article provides a step-by-step guide to help small business leaders like you transform siloed teams into collaborative, productive units.

What are the benefits of collaborative work?

By tearing down the walls between silos, you're not just changing how you work; you're solving a fundamental business problem: disconnect. By adopting a collaborative approach, you can overcome the problem of working in silos and unlock new opportunities for growth and innovation.

Here are some of the benefits of collaborative work as outlined by Gartner [1]:

  • Increased bottom line: By breaking down silos, you'll find improved resource allocation, reduced inefficiencies, and a smoother workflow, which will all be reflected in your bottom line.

  • Supercharged productivity: Collaboration boosts productivity so you reach success quicker. No more duplicate efforts, wasted time, or missed opportunities. 

  • Improved decision-making: Collaboration brings the end of tunnel vision and the beginning of well-rounded, informed choices. It brings diverse perspectives to the table, leading to better research, faster responses, and smarter decisions.

  • Digital dexterity: Collaboration is a core skill for digital dexterity. By working together, you'll tap into the collective innovation, creativity, and analytical thinking of your team and find the edge you'll need to thrive in the modern age. 

How to change the culture and shift toward collaborative work

Need a plan for transforming your culture from a maze of isolated departments to an ecosystem of collaboration? We dive into the practical tools and tactics, drawing from Gartner insights. [1]

Leverage the PRISM model to initiate conversations about collaborative work

The first step is to understand why your team works in silos and what you need to change to foster collaboration. To do this, you can use Gartner's Culture PRISM model, which is a framework that helps you analyze the five elements of culture: purpose, rules, identity, safety, and measures.

Here is how Gartner defines each element of PRISM:


  • Ask: What's the big picture? Why does our work matter to our clients, customers, and business partners? How does each team's contribution fit into the overall organizational goal?

  • Focus on: Aligning individual and team goals with the larger organizational purpose. This creates a sense of shared responsibility and motivates everyone to collaborate for a common cause.


  • Explore: What are the stated and unstated expectations within our team and across the organization? Are there any unspoken rules that hinder collaboration?

  • Challenge: Examine the existing processes and communication channels. Do they facilitate seamless collaboration or create any unnecessary roadblocks?


  • Reflect: How do we define ourselves as a team? What language do we use to describe our work and relationships with other teams?

  • Reframe: Cultivate a shared identity that emphasizes teamwork and collaboration. This can involve developing a team mission statement or using inclusive language in communication.


  • Assess: Do team members feel safe to experiment, take risks, and learn from mistakes? Are there any dynamics that create fear or inhibit open communication?

  • Foster trust: Encourage open dialogue, active listening, and constructive criticism. Create a space where everyone feels valued and respected, regardless of their position or expertise.


  • Evaluate: What do we measure and reward? Do these metrics incentivize collaboration or siloed behavior?

  • Align: Adjust your performance metrics to reflect the desired collaborative behaviors. This can involve measuring shared goals, teamwork, and knowledge sharing.

By using the PRISM model as a conversation starter, you'll create a safe space for your team to voice their concerns, share ideas, and build excitement for the collaborative future. Remember, open dialogue and a shared understanding of the "why" are essential for building a culture where teamwork thrives.

Define behaviors for collaboration using the From/To/Because model

Strategy leaders need to decide what working collaboratively means for the organization. This begins with concrete, actionable behaviors. 

The From/To/Because model offers a powerful tool that clearly defines the desired shifts in your team's approach and the underlying motivations for these changes. Here is how it works:

1. Choose a project:

Start by selecting a project to pilot. It can be a small task or large project that requires collaboration across teams or departments. This focused approach allows everyone to visualize the desired outcomes and their individual contributions.

2. Identify "from" behaviors:

Observe and discuss the current work patterns within the chosen project. What behaviors contribute to siloed work? Be specific.

3. Define "To" behaviors:

Clearly articulate the desired collaborative behaviors you want to implement. Remember, these should be specific and achievable.

4. Articulate the "Because":

Finally, explain the rationale behind each shift. This helps your team understand the benefits of collaboration and motivates them to adopt the new behaviors.




Individuals working in isolation, focusing solely on their tasks

Teams regularly hold joint planning sessions to define shared goals and responsibilities

Collaborative planning ensures everyone is aligned and contributes effectively, leading to smoother execution and better results

Information being guarded within teams, leading to duplicated efforts

Openly sharing information and expertise through dedicated channels or knowledge-sharing platforms

Sharing knowledge prevents duplication of efforts, saves time, and fosters cross-team learning and innovation

Decisions made unilaterally without seeking input from other stakeholders

Proactively seeking feedback and input from colleagues across different teams before making decisions

Inclusive decision-making leads to more informed choices, builds trust, and fosters a sense of ownership within the project

Once you've successfully implemented the From/To/Because model within the pilot project, the framework can be scaled to other areas of your work. By repeating this process across different projects in teams, you can gradually embed collaborative behaviors into your organization's culture, creating a more connected and productive work environment.

Measure collaboration efforts to see the change

Shifting towards a collaborative culture won't happen overnight. It's important to measure your progress. This allows you to identify what's working, adjust your approach when needed, and celebrate your successes along the way.

Track output

  • Focus on shared outcomes: Track metrics that reflect the success of your collaborative projects. This could include improved project completion times, increased customer satisfaction, or higher revenue generated through teamwork.

  • Quantify collaboration itself: Use tools like project management software to monitor team communication frequency, shared document edits, and joint meetings. This provides a quantitative picture of collaborative activity.

Coordinate team self-assessments

  • Conduct surveys: Regularly gather feedback from your team members about their experience with collaboration. Ask questions like "How comfortable do you feel sharing information with other teams?" and "Do you feel your input is valued in decision-making processes?"

  • Facilitate team discussions: Organize dedicated sessions where teams can discuss the collaborative strengths and weaknesses. This allows for open dialogue and identification of areas for improvement.

Leverage leadership "gut checks"

  • Observe team dynamics: Pay attention to how your teams interact during meetings, brainstorming sessions, and everyday work. Are there signs of open communication, mutual respect, and willingness to help each other?

  • Seek feedback from stakeholders: Talk to clients, partners, and other stakeholders to understand their perception of your organization's collaborative spirit. This can provide valuable insights into the impact of your efforts.

Cultivating a collaborative culture

A lack of collaboration is often responsible for departmental walls, stifled innovation, and communication breakdowns in organizations. But the tips in this article can be an antidote for silos in your business and open up the channels of communication.

Now it's time to take action:

  • Start small by piloting your collaborative approach with a specific project or department.

  • Engage your team knowing that their buy-in is key to lasting change.

  • Lead by example, demonstrating your commitment.

  • Celebrate successes to reinforce the new culture.

To learn more about building collaboration in your team, check out these resources: