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In the company where I work, I have frequently found that information silos are a hinderance to team efficiency. The team whom I am a part of is small, 8 employees. To cite some examples, when I ask a question of my colleagues ,responses often include the lines of:

  1. I am not sure what XYZ is working on...
  2. Not sure how this decision was implemented...
  3. Recent race condition due to data not being in sync

To me, this suggests that information silos and excessive task compartmentalization are impeding team productivity. Work dependencies are fairly common in my team / work unit due to its small size. The output of one member is often an input to the work of another team member. When communication or information does not easily flow but is divided into discrete units, frustration can occur, instances of which I have faced when working.

Everyone on my team is under the same management and more or less focuses on the same area / type of projects. Our team is mainly internally facing and our projects are not exposed to customers for the most part.

I am the most junior member of the team and I have a solid relationship with my manager.

Would it be advisable for me to discuss this with my supervisor next time in a 1 vs 1 and if so, how can bring up improving communication without appearing presumptuous, given my rank in hierarchy?

  • 1
    Raise the issue in your one in one, and the impact it's having. Most (good) managers won't have an issue with you raising things like this, as long as you can also suggest a solution such as adopting an Agile methodology. – Jane S May 12 '15 at 1:55
  • Are you sure "information silos" are hindering team efficiency? Typically, the "communication overhead" of getting everyone to know how every part of the system works is highly prohibitive. Some amount of uncertainty is necessary to efficiency. – Atsby May 13 '15 at 0:24
  • It sounds like you're too interdependent and your individual projects aren't big enough. We should split the work up into larger, more contiguous, units so you wait for others less often... Now what? – Ben May 13 '15 at 2:17
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You have two questions here really, how can you improve communication and should you bring it up with your manager and if so how. I'll answer them separately.

How to improve communications

It sounds like you have almost no communication between people. The most obvious way to fix this is just to try and establish a culture of asking people what they're doing, encouraging people to share. But if that's not something that's happening you need some framework around it.

Team meetings: Regular team meetings are an easy way to do this. They can be monthly, weekly, even daily depending on the project timelines and team size. In general weekly is common -- the team comes together at a fixed time, each person says what they've done since last meeting, what they're doing next and what issues they're facing. It's an open sharing discussion -- have someone take minutes and store them somewhere.

This can be a meeting the manager attends, where it also functions as a status report. Or it can just be the team doing more 'information sharing'.

Peer reviews: Having someone else look over your code / design / work, whatever is useful in two ways. First the second set of eyes will likely catch things you missed, and also now someone else knows what you're doing and why. Rotate who's involved in what review and rapidly the whole team has a wider understanding of everyone's project. The time spend to do this is recouped in the time saved by avoiding the problems you detail. This does require a culture shift, and there will be resistance, but in general -- once the benefits become clear -- then people come around. I'm assuming your in software but the same system works for any engineering/creative task, there are plenty of online resources and articles about peer reviews.

Documentation: Do you have documentation when a project is handed over? It sounds like you don't, which seems to be a problem. Or perhaps the documentation is not good enough. Either review documentation as well, or create templates to guide people into including the correct information, or have some sort of handover checklist where the supplier and receiver have to both agree everything required is there.

Use your tools: Again, assuming software. Do you have a source code control system? (If not, you really should!). Can you build notifications into that so everyone can see each others commits? Or generate weekly reports? Just something to give an insight into what is going on.

Should you bring it up with your manager and if so how

You should definitely bring it up -- it's affecting your productivity and it's a chance to make things better for everyone. And decent manager wants to hear that sort of input -- as long as you're not just whining about it. And, if they decide not to change things, you accept that and move on (or come up with other suggestions).

As I've said in answers elsewhere, don't just say "this is a problem" go to your manager with solutions. Say "I think we should try this or this, because it would help us avoid these problems in the future". The suggestions above will help with what you solutions you give (you'll know what will work best) and you can do find some 'best practice' on line to give you backup for why it will work.

Suggest it as a trial, "Why don't we do something for six months and see what happens".

It's not clear if this is your first job, if not you can go to the "At my previous company we started doing team meetings and found it really useful at avoiding problems such as X, Y and Z". If you don't have a previous company you can do the same but "My friend works for a similar company and they've started doing ..." or even "At college/university a tutor was recommending ..." or just "I was doing research on how other companies avoid problems like X, Y and Z and found a lot of people recommending ...". Or just say some guy called SpaceDog on the internet suggested it, but that might not get you as far ... :)

Be careful with the above if you're saying it's something that's done elsewhere when that's not true and it's something they can check as it'll hurt your credibility and your case. But if you use the friend argument without specifying which friend or which company it's pretty much unfalsifiable -- and my suggests above are standard practice at a great many companies.

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