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How can you tackle the knowledge silos that are slowing your team down?
Knowledge silos are a problem for many engineering organizations, whether due to teams being structured by function or simply a lack of clear communication. Over time, these silos lead to frustration, resentment, and a damaging lack of collaboration and trust.
As engineering leaders, how can you identify and eradicate silos in your teams? How can you remove the organizational obstacles to collaboration? And what steps can you take to build a culture of knowledge sharing?
What have other engineering leaders learned from tackling silos in their companies? In this panel discussion, we brought together a small group to share their experiences and best practices for breaking down barriers between teams.
Featuring Ellen Wong (Director of Engineering at Calm), Rich Anakor (Chief Solutions Architect at Vanguard), Liz Fong-Jones (Developer Advocate at Honeycomb), Swati Vauthrin (Senior Engineering Leader at Instagram), and Jossie Haines (VP of Software Engineering at Tile), the panel discussed:
- How to identify restrictive silos in engineering teams
- How to leverage engineering specializations without compromising team performance
- How to improve problem-solving and team cooperation
- How to build a cross-functional and autonomous engineering culture
Systems aren’t just technical, they’re sociotechnical, designed, created, and maintained by humans. In this article, Fred Hebert explains why putting people at the center of your technical processes can help you to eradicate knowledge silos and evaluate issues more effectively.
Fred shares advice for taking a sociotechnical approach to managing your systems, from implementing human mechanisms such as chaos engineering and incident reviews (to identify where and how things break down in your teams) to trusting your engineers’ judgment and practicing blamelessness.
To build a successful product, you need input from multiple perspectives across different teams, allowing you to identify a broad range of use cases and fill any knowledge gaps. In this article, Raul Herbster explains why engineering leaders should be intentional about collaboration, with tips for getting started in your company.
Raul outlines five ways to break down silos between teams: build trust; communicate with intention; use the power of abstractions to keep folks aligned; be prepared for when things go wrong; and remember, simply combining a mix of disciplines in a team isn’t enough.
Are some of your teams writing code that sends traces to Zipkin, others to Jaeger? Are some services reporting metrics to Wavefront, others to Prometheus? If the answer is ‘yes’, you’re likely dealing with data silos and struggling to bring together analytics across all your teams.
In this article, Phillip Carter shares how you can use the OpenTelemetry observability framework to convert and interoperate all your data so that you can provide a common language for your engineers, making it his top choice for instrumenting code.
Great teamwork makes the dream work, but putting together a brand new team is far from easy. In this article, Makedonka Stamatova shares her recent experience of building a distributed team, going from strangers to an effective, unified group over the course of a year.
Makedonka maps her team’s journey to the five stages of team development (forming, norming, storming, performing, and adjourning), outlining the challenges they faced at each stage and their best practices for removing silos, overcoming the obstacles, and making teamwork, well, work.
A final takeaway
Knowledge sharing is one of the most powerful tools we have. As engineering leaders, you have an opportunity and a responsibility to actively encourage collaboration and communication between and within your teams. By putting people at the center of your processes, building trust, utilizing tools to democratize data, and understanding the psychology behind group interactions, you can start breaking down the barriers and start building a cross-functional and collaborative culture.