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Busting Through Barriers

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We often hear that people are an organization’s greatest assets, and it’s true. Our colleagues and employees have unlimited potential to solve problems, adapt to challenges, and work collaboratively to achieve positive organizational results. And when it comes to problem solving, who better than the employees who are closest to the work? As employees however, it’s not uncommon to be told, “That’s just the way it is” in response to a suggestion for improvement.

Have you ever been told by another department, “There’s nothing we can do to solve the problem,” or found yourself outright ignored? Are leaders constantly fighting about who is supposed to be responsible for something and placing the blame on others? Are people in departments hoarding information because they don’t see a need for others to know? Are you frustrated because no one seems to want to step up and change things?

These experiences reflect an organization with departments and teams that have a siloed-thinking mindset. To bust through the existing barriers in an organization, enlist the help of a problem-solving barriers team.

ASSEMBLE A BARRIERS TEAM 

The most successful organizations encourage communication and information sharing outside of specific teams and departments. Barriers can be the result of teams in different locations, hierarchies in the workplace, excessive workloads, comfort zones, and lack of organization wide transparency. Busting through barriers requires us to shift away from siloed thinking, and collaboratively solve problems across the organization.  

When barriers exist in the workplace, leaders may notice the following negative effects:  

  • Erosion of Trust 
  • Inefficient Communication  
  • Employee Disengagement 
  • Complex Processes 
  • Unsatisfactory Customer Experiences 
  • Loss of Productivity (Duplication of Work) 
  • We/They Mentality  
  • Resistance to Change 
  • Stifled Innovation & Creativity 

If you notice there are barriers affecting your team, department, or organization’s productivity, a team of diverse employees can be assembled to break down silos, make processes more efficient, and increase collaboration. A barriers team works together to identify operational or employee support obstacles, conducts tests, and determine an appropriate solution.  

It’s important that this team is not manager-led, but that the team will have the trust and support of senior leaders. The focus of the barriers team is on the entire organization, not on their respective departments. The team members are committed to improving communication and processes for the betterment of all employees and those that the organization serves.  

3 STEPS TO BUST THROUGH BARRIERS 

 

  • Select employees who have a ‘let’s find better ways to work’ mindset.  
  • Who do you notice that identifies existing problems and offers solutions? They may be interested in joining the team.  
  • Allow the team members to establish their team norms and expectations of one another.   

  

  • Start with a minor problem – learn how to work together as a team, with other department leaders, and determine process that will work best for the team. 
  • Once the team has found their rhythm, begin to break down more difficult barriers hindering the workplace.   
  • You may find it helpful to prioritize processes to improve as a team.  

 

  • Use PDSA or a similar continuous improvement approach. PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act) is a 4-stage problem solving model used to test and implement system-wide improvement.  
  • The Barriers Team will address these questions:  
    • What’s the problem?  
    • What could be done differently to solve the problem?  
    • Who can help us better understand the problem?  
    • How will we identify what works and does not work and how will we make modifications?  
    • When do we have enough information to formalize the new process and communicate why this solution, what it is, and how the new process will work? 
  • As cycles of PDSA are repeated, the change can be tested on a larger scale across multiple levels to determine its effectiveness system-wide.
  • Document what has been learned from the test and decide if the change should be adapted, adopted, or abandoned. 
  •  

Analyze Your Communication

Barriers and silos often exist in an organization when there is a lack of effective communication. People in different departments aren’t sharing information, causing work to get repeated or the organization to send out mixed messages. Audit your communication to identify areas to eliminate barriers that are a result of inefficient communication.

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