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{Excerpt} A silo is a tall, self-contained cylindrical structure that isused to store commodities such as grain after a harvest. It is also a figure of speech for organizational entities—and their management teams—that lack the desire or motivation to coordinate (at worst, even communicate) with other entities in the same organization. Wide recognition of the metaphor intimates that structural barriers in sizable organizations often cause units to work against one another: silos, politics, and turf wars are often mentioned in the same breath.

An organization is a social arrangement to pursue a collective intent. Coordination, and the requisite communication it implies, is fundamental to organizational performance toward that. Yet, many organizations grapple with the challenge of connecting the subsystems they have devised to enhance specific contributing functions. Here and there, organizational, spatial, and social boundaries impede—when they do not block—the flows of knowledge needed to make full use of capabilities. High costs are borne from duplication of effort, inconsistencies, and inefficiencies. Everywhere, large organizations must move from managing silos to managing systems.


Suggested Citation

Serrat, O. (2010). Bridging organizational silos. Washington, DC: Asian Development Bank.

Required Publisher's Statement

This article was first published by the Asian Development Bank (