Establishing a Successful Cross-Functional Team

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By Brit Nanna

Consider this scenario: You were asked to provide change management support for a sizeable international development effort for a foreign government. It entails implementing broad-sweeping reforms affecting multiple departments.  You created a change management strategy and plan you believe will help your client realize its desired outcomes, taking into account every possible challenge you might confront.  Like many client environments, you knew the local government was heavily siloed, lacking substantial cross-collaboration between departments.  You consequently incorporated the use of cross-functional teams (CFTs) as a means of overcoming these organizational silos and leveraging team members’ diverse expertise as representatives of multiple governmental departments to improve organizational performance. Months pass and despite your efforts, you now find yourself in the implementation phase, and the CFTs are not delivering the expected benefits. Your change efforts seem to be languishing.

In this scenario, like many others, CFTs are not a panacea to the change management challenges of achieving targeted development outcomes in the public sector.  Their successful implementation faces a variety of obstacles. The 2012 article by Niall Piercy, Wendy Phillips and Michael Lewis discusses a variety of these challenges, arguing that the successful implementation of a CFT can hinge on a variety of factors, including the support of organizational leadership, as well as organizational culture and structures conductive to cross-functional integration.  Successful CFTs also depend on adequate funding support along with the ability to break the status quo and overcome resistance to change. These dependencies expose key challenges to effective CFT implementation discussed below.

When these challenges are addressed during the planning phase, CFTs can be integral to driving transformative and sustainable change necessary to realizing targeted development outcomes both at headquarters and in the field.

Stove-Piped Organizational Structures:

Many governments around the world, at all levels, have a stove-piped public sector, characterized by marked division of labor and tasks with minimal interaction across departments. When attempting change in these environments, it is often difficult to use CFTs successfully, but it is not impossible. In these organizational structures, it is imperative to overcome what may be overarching unwillingness toward CFTs due to potential differences in knowledge and views, which can lead to differing opinions.  Furthermore, departments are often working at cross purposes. This goal incongruity is also likely in such siloed environments, resulting in variances in decision criteria and timelines.

 Lack of Critical Buy-In from Leadership:

Command-and-control organizational structures and environments lead to a marked dependency on senior leadership for successful change. In these command-and-control environments, senior leadership often struggle to heed advice from the CFT and/or ensure the required structural processes are in place to support the CFT’s work. Senior leadership’s buy-in is critical and the motivation and performance of CFTs will likely suffer without a clear and inspirational vision and agenda from senior leadership.  CFTs will also struggle to impact organizational performance and service delivery without sufficient team-building, training and recognition in these top-down organizational structures.  CFT members often contend with balancing their day-to-day responsibilities with the additional CFT duties, requiring senior leadership to release staff from certain responsibilities in order to allow them to focus on successfully implementing change within the organization.

Cultural Resistance to Change

In both domestic and international settings, cultural resistance to change can be found among staff, management, and political resistance born out of frustration and pure opposition. For those lower-level employees often removed from the politics of the organization, it may be a challenge to identify the proper modes of motivation for members of the CFT (especially in situations where there are too many consultants, people, papers, reports etc.).  Apathy and uncertainty also pose a challenge to motivating lower-level employees to participate in CFT’s as they might have seen too many attempts at change fail. Furthermore, in the public sector, one might encounter those employees that are so entrenched in their positions that it is difficult to remove those that are not on board as they are willing to wait it out and wait for the next change. For management, some senior leadership might perceive they have a lot to lose from the anticipated impacts which may influence their openness to change.  Power, control and status concerns also dictate the senior leadership’s level of buy-in and investment in change. At both levels it is critical to identify for each member, “what is in it for me?”

 Building and Maintaining a Culture of (3)

Also in these command-and-control organizations, change is often implemented from the top down and it can be difficult to put forward different ways of thinking especially in terms of productivity that lack that grassroots buy-in. Piercy, Phillips and Lewis (2012) note that if change is not communicated effectively it may promote the traditional view that change is done to lower-level employees by the corporate center.

 Conceptualizations of Change

The success of CFTs is also dependent on the conceptualization of change and how it is perceived in that particular environment. Like in various organizations across the United States, the idea of change in international settings can also be just as unsettling. Whether it is redefining change as “business readiness” or finding other angles from which to approach it, the concept of change and how it is communicated to CFTs or otherwise is another critical consideration. How the members of the CFT understand change will also dictate their level of investment and efficacy in their work to implement the change.

In sum, while the implementation of CFT’s and change efforts may be done with the best of intentions, there are a number of considerations to take into account when seeking to implement them successfully.  This is not to detract from the value of the CFT’s as they stand to strongly benefit any change effort and there are opportunities for overcoming these challenges, which include:

  • Ensuring there is a clearly articulated vision and agenda indicating the target future state of the agency or organization, and maintaining a laser focus on this state throughout the change effort
  • Using what Piercy, Phillips, and Lewis (2012) term, a ‘hybrid model,’ in building your CFT in which members are not solely cherry-picked but also have the opportunity to volunteer, enhancing the credibility of the program through their bolstered sense of ownership
  • Communicating to senior leadership how it benefits them as leaders to relinquish some control in order to empower CFTs in their change efforts
  • Empowering CFT members as change agents by identifying and channeling their underlying motivations when communicating the value of change, and building their capacity for change
  • Identifying new ways to promote participation in the CFT; such as offering training to help increase pay grades, providing learning opportunities, or framing it as an opportunity to strengthen one’s resume
  • And perhaps most importantly, developing a change strategy at the onset that addresses the human factors as well as the right technical solution, expediting the adoption of new systems/ways of working and managing dips in productivity (For more information about Evans CAARMA methodology please select the following link).

When working to achieve key development outcomes it is important to understand that delivering the right technical solution is never enough as human factors also have to be considered. In doing so, cross-functional teams provide an opportunity to achieve transformative and sustainable change. What are your thoughts on establishing a successful cross-functional team?


Implementing and Sustaining Cross-Platform NAS Capabilities

By Bob Etris

Implementing something new that requires changes to multiple underlying systems is no simple task. The field of portfolio management and the various best practices associated with it have matured over time to address this issue. Simultaneous changes to multiple systems that aim to yield a singular outcome and achieve a common set of objectives require doing more in parallel. That parallel activity, unless properly integrated and coordinated, tends to increase the risk to the overall project and ultimately makes it more challenging to accomplish the task at hand.

Screen Shot 2014-10-03 at 3.58.39 PMThe link below provides a reference to a presentation recently delivered by my colleague, Jack Moore and I at the 59th Annual Air Traffic Control Association Conference. While the points made in the presentation are focused on implementing capabilities within the National Airspace System (NAS), the themes with respect to reducing risk in any portfolio-based approach to change ring true in other domains beyond aviation.  Here are a few of the key takeaways:

Implementing simultaneous changes to multiple systems requires a greater level of planning than for changes to one system. While planning and allocating the requirements to the other affected projects or programs is a necessary prerequisite, implementing complex change requires a different approach to detail, design, software development, deployment, and ongoing sustainment. At each point along the way, a change in any one area has a likelihood of impact in more than one person, organization, or stakeholder.  In the broadest sense, one of the best ways to mitigate this risk is through the careful design of appropriate governance processes to manage and prioritize issues as they arise while ensuring decision making authority includes the appropriate stakeholder communities.

Ongoing maintenance of a new function or capability that spreads across multiple systems presents a potential philosophical challenge with respect to the (potentially different) maintenance approaches of the underlying technologies. For instance, if a user finds a problem with the capability and calls the help desk, that help desk call needs to be triaged by multiple teams with multiple sets of expertise looking at both the root causes in the source systems as well as the integration points across those systems and how they interact. As an organization takes on more and more of these capabilities with multiple integration points, the design of the organizational IT support structure must be aligned to serve the changing needs of its mission.

Photo courtesy of NASA

Photo courtesy of NASA

Integration has a cost, and that cost must be taken into account in the lifecycle planning and execution of this sort of work. This includes not just the integration costs associated with the software development activity, but costs associated with integrated outreach to users, coordination of test activities across multiple platforms and long-term sustainable occasions for maintenance and enhancement activities to both the underlying systems and the capabilities that span them.

At Evans Incorporated, we believe our human centered approach to understanding the organizational and business systems that govern these types of changes best positions our customers to reduce their risk and ultimately save money otherwise spent on escalating scope and schedule challenges.’s Lifeline: Effective Program Management

By Omoefe Abugo

When Congress asks the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to audit a government agency or program, it generally investigates areas of fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement and areas thought to be in need of broad reform. When the GAO looked at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid’s (CMS) management of, it found several factors that contributed to its painful and delayed launch. The GAO found the CMS-led initiative to be a high-risk program for many reasons, among them being: unclear guidance, lack of quality assurance plans and inadequate accountability functions. Our experience with complex organizations has enabled us to help program offices avoid such issues and adopt effective program management and balance crucial program factors.

When faced with a large-scale initiative, there will always be complex challenges and unforeseen problems to solve. When CMS set out to design, develop and launch the complex environment and suite of components known as, various issues arose that impeded a successful launch. According to the GAO’s Report to Congressional Requesters, these issues led to major unaddressed performance gaps, millions of dollars in cost overruns and a seriously flawed rollout of the website on Oct. 1, 2013.

Program Effectiveness

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

There were several problems that plagued CMS’ launch of the healthcare program, but the failure to adopt established program management (PM) best practices proved to be the weakest link of the initiative. The GAO report and testimony by GAO officials point to failure to adhere to effective planning and oversight practices, despite the challenges and level of risk required for effective oversight.  These failures led to scope creep, over-obligation of funding to contracts, and a decision to launchwithout verification that the site met its performance requirements.

In managing a program as complex as, CMS leadership should have placed greater emphasis on the human element of program management across its many components and over 60 contracts to ensure that the workforce and stakeholders remained informed and aligned for the transformation ahead.

Certainly, for an initiative of this size, the program office must lead from a clearly defined and communicated set of objectives. Evans’ Game-Changing Program Management approach uses these implemented objectives to drive day-to-day efforts in ensuring program effectiveness:

  • Clear organizational goals for program management
  • PM standards that are aligned with the organization’s process maturity
  • Improved organizational effectiveness and efficiency
  • Increased stakeholder and customer satisfaction
  • An audit-ready program office
  • A value-added and balanced quality assurance function
  • Metrics that realistically track program performance

Balancing Factors

The Project Management Triangle (PMT), also known as the Triple Constraint, tells program managers that every project is balanced on three supporting beams: schedule, cost and quality. Basically, if you want something done well and fast, the price will rise.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

If a program manager wants something done well and for a low price, it will take longer to achieve favorable results. The main point: you can only pick two of the three sides of the PMT. For a program to achieve the objectives mentioned above, one must define which constraints it will operate around. Otherwise, less favorable tradeoffs will be made.  Unfortunately for CMS, the quality of the project failed and cost accountability evaporated. The deadline for the website became more important than the website’s ability to handle influxes of millions of users. Wanting it fast began to overcome wanting it right. Confusion about who had the authority to approve contractor requests and expend funds crippled CMS’ ability to implement an effective accountability system. According to the GAO’s Report, this led to more than $200 million in piled fees, and no improvements in’s effectiveness.

During a high-visibility, high-stress project like, it is crucial for the program office to leverage a balanced quality assurance function that helps to assess its process strengths and weaknesses. Instead of establishing a dependable quality assurance function, project roles and requirements were often unknown and unclear. What did this mean for CMS? Every action it took involved great risk. Unfortunately, CMS failed to put measures in place to alleviate these dangers, such as:

  • Clarified roles and responsibilities
  • Established best practices
  • Governance approvals
  • Accountability functions

In Retrospect

As’s lifecycle matured, it should have been able to demand more of its contractors and workforce and expect optimized performance and results. However, little to no risk management challenged the program office’s ability to properly facilitate each step of the institutionalization of The program managers could not right-size their use of program standards to make more effective because the standards were unclear and unknown.

Communication always tends to be the fall guy when a project fails or performs inadequately, but in this situation, it would be unfair to blame poor communication. If CMS’ program office had implemented strict program management best practices, set rigorous performance expectations and established flexible, adaptive objectives at each level of’s process maturity, perhaps we would have seen a more successful, efficient launch.

If you would like more information on our Game-Changing Program Management approach, please contact us at 703-663-2480 or at

We welcome comments and discussion on this blog below!

To Centralize or Decentralize? Key Considerations

This document outlines the key considerations, benefits and risks when centralizing or decentralizing functions of an organization.  The purpose is to help inform leaders and their teams of the variables at play and possible impacts associated with each option.

What do we mean by centralized and decentralized?

  • Centralized:  When a function is managed through the central office – typically the headquarters.
  • Decentralized: When a function is managed at the local level – an office or department outside of central management.

An organizational function, which is anything that the organization performs repeatedly or in an ongoing manner, can be centralized or decentralized.  Some common organizational functions are IT support, engineering, scheduling, research and development, marketing, finance, sales, development, human resources, operations, and manufacturing.

What parts of the function get centralized or decentralized?

Every function has two parts: decision-making and execution.  Each part can be centralized or decentralized. 

1. Decision-making – Determining how the work gets done, processes to follow, budget allocations, schedule, quality, and other factors specific to the function.

2. Execution – Completing the work, which often means receiving the resources (monetary and personnel) to do so.

The following example will outline the four permutations of centralizing and decentralizing these two parts of a function.

Example: ABC Training Company centralizing/decentralizing their “content development” function

ABC Training Company provides professional training and has two major training programs: Leadership and Team Building.  Each program requires specific content to be developed for their training services.  Should each program own the decisions around content development (what topics to include, format, length and tone of the content) or should a central office decide?  Should each program or the central office execute the content creation (selecting their own publishers, printers, and designers and having control over the process)?  Table 1 outlines the four permutations of centralizing and decentralizing the two parts of the content development.  Centralize Grid

Benefits and Risks of Centralized and Decentralized Approaches

What is the right choice for each function in your organization?  The answer depends on factors such as your short-term and long-term strategy, culture, environment, and leadership and management styles. Table 2 outlines the common benefits and risks to centralizing and decentralizing.  As you read through the list, think about which items are most important and least important given the strategy and direction of your organization.  You can use this list with your leadership team to “get on the same page” when assessing trade-offs during your decision. 

Centralize benefits

The benefits and risks are listed as potential because choosing to centralize or decentralize does not automatically create these outcomes.  For example, you can have a fully centralized customer service function, but enable local offices to make decisions and take actions up to a certain threshold before getting permission from the central office, which helps the function remain more nimble (one of the benefits of being decentralized). 

Which benefits are most important to you?  Which risks cause most concern?  Regardless of whether you choose to centralize or decentralize, what processes, expectations, and mechanisms can you put in place to help mitigate the risks? 

Thank you, Margit Jochmann, David Fisher, Iliana Alvarado, and Lisa Mangkankorn, for input and advice on this paper.

Author: Tip Fallon, MSOD.

No Time To Plan Just Get It Done

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • There is NO TIME to plan.  We need to make changes NOW.
  • The more attention and involvement there is from executives, the more pressure there is to just move it forward quickly.
  • Why plan?  It’s outdated as soon as we document it.
  • No one follows the plan anyway; it just sits on the shelf.  Why waste our time?

Have you heard any of these on your projects?  Perhaps even SAID some of these yourself?  It can be a challenge to plan projects.  Pressure is high to demonstrate results, causing us to want to rush into executing, which creates an imbalance between planning and execution. Continue reading

Force Field Analysis: A key to driving organizational change

Author: Tip Fallon, Business Analyst

So how exactly do you implement a change in an organization?  The process is generally long and complex, but Kurt Lewin’s Force Field Analysis is a model that you can use in the planning stages to help you:

(1) identify the forces supporting and restraining your desired change,

(2) understand the balance between the forces (which will determine if your change will be effective), and

(3) identify the most effective place to direct your energy for the change to be successful.

Here is an overview of how to apply the Force Field Analysis to a change effort:
(Note: Practitioners will use this tool in different ways.  Feel free to tailor it in the way that best suits you and your team.)

Step 1: State the desired change in one sentence.

What change do you want to accomplish?









Step 2: Setup the Force Field Diagram.

Setup a sheet of paper (or white board) with the sentence form Step 1 describing the change written at the top.  Then draw a line down the middle of the paper dividing it in half.

On the left side, create a heading as “Driving forces” and on the right, a header as “Restraining forces.”


Step 3: List and rate all restraining and driving forces impacting the change.

Brainstorm all the driving and restraining forces for the change.  Write them in their respective sides of the paper with a number representing the strength of the force.

This is one of the most important steps in the process.  Consider the many types of forces driving or restraining the change (e.g., technology, leadership, organizational culture, processes, environment, historical experiences related to the change, reward systems, etc.).  Conceptually, if you can identify and mitigate every potential restraining force against your desired change, your change will be successful as there will be no forces to stop it.

Use a scale of 1-5 for the strength of each force:

1: Negligible impact on the change; Easy to eliminate

2: Some impact on the change; Can be overcome with moderate effort/resources

3: Considerable impact on the change; Requires an investment of planning and resources to eliminate

4: Significant impact on the change; Requires high effort/resources to minimize it but probably cannot be eliminated

5: Can make or break the change by itself; Nearly impossible to eliminate

Note: Feel free to adjust the scale’s parameters; the key is to use consistent criteria.

For each force, draw an arrow (scaled to the strength of the force if desired) towards the middle line.  This represents the force pushing “for” or “against” the change.

Step 4: Do a litmus test.

Add the total strength scores for the restraining and driving forces.  Are they way out of proportion?  If the restraining forces far outweigh the driving forces, this may not be a viable change effort. If they are close, or the driving forces are greater, you may have a viable change effort on your hands.

Step 5: Determine which restraining forces can be reduced.

The crux of this tool: In order for the change to succeed, the driving forces need to outweigh the restraining forces.  The way to accomplish that is not to simply increase the driving forces – that only makes the restraining forces push back harder.   The key is to reduce or eliminate the restraining forces.  That way there’s nothing standing in the way of the change and you need even less driving forces to succeed.

For each restraining force, identify how you can either (1) eliminate, (2) control, or (3) influence it.  You may find that you can at least influence every force. You probably also now have a list of what would have to happen (a to-do list) for this change to succeed.

Re-calculate the total strength score for restraining forces.  Does this change the balance of the driving forces to restraining forces?


Completing this process should provide a better idea of exactly what forces are driving and restraining the desired change.  This helps you determine if the change is even worthwhile.  Further, by analyzing the restraining forces and using methods such as group brainstorming, you may find that there are few forces that you cannot influence, control, or eliminate.

The fundamental principle here: The forces acting for change must be greater than those acting against it.  Next time there is an idea to create a change in your organization, consider using Kurt Lewin’s Force Field Analysis to identify the forces at play, and manage them to increase the probability of success of your change effort.

Evolve from SIPOC to COPIS

Author: Tip Fallon, Business Analyst

The SIPOC is a quality management tool used when creating, defining, or improving a process to help the user understand the following components of a process.

  • Suppliers
  • Inputs
  • Process
  • Outputs
  • Customers

A SIPOC map is a clear, relatively high-level, and streamlined method to document and communicate the process elements listed above. However, the risk in using a SIPOC as the only or primary tool in a process improvement initiative is that a very important area may be under-emphasized: delighting the customer.  In creating a SIPOC, customers are generally identified last, and often, change management practitioners can get caught up optimizing the Process component without fully understanding the Voice of the Customer (VOC).  However, customer delight outweighs all of the other elements – Suppliers, Inputs, Process, and Outputs – combined.  An alternative model, called COPIS, can shift the focus to  delighting the customer, and thus spark innovation in the entire process.  COPIS can complement your SIPOC model (or any other tool/approach).

COPIS is SIPOC backwards and thus starts with, and focuses on, the Customer.  By suspending any thoughts, plans, and decision-making about the process, outputs, etc., a team can gain clarity and insight on what is truly Value-Add to the customer.  Only after clearly defining what deliverables, expectations, wants, needs, and services the customer would be delighted by, can meaningful and innovative Outputs be developed.  Once the right Outputs are determined, then the Process that would create those Outputs can be developed … and so forth.  COPIS is essentially applying Stephen Covey’s universal success principle of “begin with the end in mind” to process improvement initiatives.

While the SIPOC model can give you a picture to help incrementally improve a process, the COPIS model can you help transform a process by focusing on what delights the customer – and then considering what new outputs or process may be a more effective way of reaching that goal.

What do you think?  Do you find yourself in process improvement initiatives where looking at the problem from a COPIS perspective would be valuable?

More resources:

SIPOC templates:

More on SIPOCs and Six Sigma:

Federal Passbacks Require Lean Thinking

Author: Jack Moore | Director

This budgeting and pass-back season for the Federal government was more tumultuous than most. With both sides of aisle agreeing that the Federal budget needs to be cut dramatically without offsetting tax increases, Federal workers and their budgets are taking the brunt of this version of “the perfect storm.”

Over the last months, every Federal agency received their pass-back and went through their program budgets line by line, doing their best to determine which programs should be left alone, which should be “moved to the right” and which should be cut altogether. For the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), these cuts are more impactful than most, as the cuts will significantly impact their ability to deliver against the NextGen air traffic modernization program. The ripple effect will affect the Feds that drive the programs and the contractors that support them, leaving the Feds to be transitioned to value-added work and many contractors looking for new work.

It is this version of “the perfect storm” that I believe suggests the Federal civilian agencies should increase use of Lean Six Sigma (LSS). LSS, or Lean, is the relentless pursuit of value-added activities and the eradication of waste. Waste is defined as any activity that does not directly tie to a customer need. The Obama administration itself has indirectly suggested the use of Lean, as they acknowledge that the Government is over-regulated (one of the eight forms of waste), resulting in an abundance of bureaucracy. At the FAA, we are educating our customers on Lean and how to use it, as we work with them to transition to more value-added activities.

In subsequent posts, I will discuss the remaining seven forms of waste and how Feds and their support contractors can work together to eradicate waste.