Break down silos to create a culture of continuous improvement

In several of our articles about challenges for tomorrow’s quality leaders, we have addressed how to plug the knowledge drain and effectively manage your company’s know-how. Your organizational structure and processes can be your worst enemy…or best asset. Organizational silos and roadblocks can significantly impede efficiency, innovation, and overall performance. These barriers often stem from vertical line management, outdated practices, and fragmented communication channels. Here’s why you should consider a cross-functional organization focused on processes and how modern Quality Management Systems (QMS) can transform organizational dynamics. 

Traditional vertical line management to cross-collaborative processes  
Some companies have hierarchical divisions, groups such as marketing, finance, production, etc., and functions within functions that operate in silos. It also serves a purpose: each employee reports to a single manager with a clear reporting line or departments with specialized experts within a specific area. Decisions are made from the top and flow downward. But there are some disadvantages to consider. Departments can become isolated with poor communication and coordination across functions. Decision-making is slow due to several management layers and limited cross-departmental collaboration. Our experience shows that the average organization can save approximately 15% of turnover due to poor working methods and sub-optimized workflows between departments. Imagine the gains by saving on these unnecessary costs.  

A recent study indicates that modern organizations focus less on hierarchy and more on maximizing interactions, connections, and conversations among employees, customers, and external partners. Shifting from a vertical to a horizontal matrix and applying a process approach rather than a function-only perspective is easier said than done. However, it is necessary to equip your organization with the speed, agility, and flexibility to meet today’s global market. As a quality leader, a modern QMS is the optimal tool to get you there. 

Banking on processes and structure  
In our survey about the future of management systems, 47% of respondents consider a process approach in their organization challenging, and 34% plan to implement projects for process improvements soon. Lack of knowledge about processes among employees is a common reason organizations see a process approach as difficult. 

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ISO 9001 provides a framework for improving process efficiency, product quality, and customer satisfaction. Quality leaders can leverage ISO 9001 to optimize their processes in several ways. By focusing on processes rather than individual tasks, you can ensure that ways of working and activities are interconnected and aligned with your organization’s strategic objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs). 

ISO 9001 requires documentation of processes, procedures, and responsibilities. This structured documentation ensures consistency and standardization across the organization. You can use these documents to train new employees, maintain and improve operations, and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. Knowing who does what in your company also creates transparency and accountability. 

As a quality leader, obtaining insights into all the processes requires a lot of time and effort, but having process owners or managers who are responsible for cross-functional workflows will make it easier to remove unnecessary costs and problems that pure silo thinking causes. One pitfall to stay clear of is just renaming your silos or functions and calling them processes instead. 

Leveraging a future-proof QMS 
A modern agile electronic QMS, such as CANEA ONE, is critical in decentralizing silos and transitioning to a process-orientated approach. A modern QMS helps define your processes and equips your organization with faster decision-making processes and innovation. You can visualize, navigate, and intuitively communicate your processes. You can also digitalize and automate specific processes to remove redundancies and human error and improve efficiency.  

A future-proof QMS also has a strategic role to play. The content of the QMS governs and supports strategy work, and future QMS will be under increasing pressure to produce measurable benefits and clear results. By making performance data accessible, you can identify and address issues immediately before they escalate into significant roadblocks. Integrating your QMS with other business systems will provide a holistic overview of your business and operations. 

Overall, by adopting a process approach combined with a modern, electronic QMS, you can dismantle silos, streamline operations, and create a culture of transparency and continuous improvement.