Silos will hurt your startup. Friendships will make you strong
Update: Part 2: Your startup needs a polaroid wall is now up. Read this one first, though. There is a link in the bottom as well.
Are you just five people to your startup? I envy you. I envy the shared direction you feel with your colleagues. How you feel at one with the vision. You are one entity fighting for a common goal. You can rely on your teammates. They can rely on you. This is a wonderful feeling.
Now your startup gains both traction and success. Champagne all around! It is time to start hiring so you can keep up with x, y and z.
Your company grows. You get the need for specialisation. You develop teams, departments. Areas of responsibility take on a power of their own.
There is a side effect to this. Silos happen.
Silos are when teams distance themselves from each other. Let us enter the mind of a person in a silo. It is now most important how something affects your team.
Your work. Your stress. Your relationship with management. Your little silo.
How things affect your silo become more important than how they affect the company. Others will take care of that. This is in essence an instance of the Bystander Effect.
In a silo, employees will gradually care less and less about the company as a whole. An employee in a silo will not feel a strong relationship to the company. They do not work in the company. They work in the silo. The company is what causes problems. What hurts their silo.
The end result: The company is hurt greatly by these silos.
It is vital that they be kept in check.
Keeping silos in check
A way to keep silos in check is very simple:
Communication. Talking. Caring.
Silos occur naturally. Banding in groups is part of human nature. Luckily, so is caring.
What we need to introduce is compassion for the other silos. You just got an amazing friend in another team. You had the best talks over those Friday beers. Suddenly, you care a lot about her workload. His stress. Their work-life balance.
You need your engineers to buddy with sales, sales to buddy with HR, HR to buddy with Operations. And so on and so on.
Basically, you need friendships to evolve across departments.
Now go forth, and do all in your power to help your employees make friends with each other.
For insight into how to make your company GREAT, I highly recommend the book From Good To Great by Jim C. Collins
PS: I had more to say about silos than I first thought. So this blog post came to life. There is now also a Part 2: Why your large-ish startup absolutely needs a polaroid wall.