Harvard Business Review
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Cross-Silo Leadership

How to create more value by connecting experts from inside and outside the organization

Though most executives recognize the importance of breaking down silos to help people collaborate across boundaries, they struggle to make it happen. That’s understandable: It is devilishly difficult. Think about your own relationships at work—the people you report to and those who report to you, for starters. Now consider the people in other functions, units, or geographies whose work touches yours in some way. Which relationships get prioritized in your day-to-day job?

We’ve posed that question to managers, engineers, salespeople, and consultants in companies around the world. The response we get is almost always the same: vertical relationships.

But when we ask, “Which relationships are most important for creating value for customers?” the answers flip. Today the vast majority of innovation and business-development opportunities lie in the interfaces between functions, offices, or organizations. In short, the integrated solutions that most customers want—but companies wrestle with developing—require horizontal collaboration.

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