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This whitepaper will demonstrate the importance of having an effective Cross-Functional Leader, someone who can bring clarity, strategy, organization and a collaborative approach to any company. Unfortunately too few companies have either brought in someone or identified personnel that have Cross-Functional Leadership skill set, which has caused one of the most insidious problems in corporate America…. “Welcome to the wonderful world of AMBIGUITY”

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  1. 1. Cross-Functional Leadership “Leading Across the Ambiguity Aisle” Andre’ Harrell CEO/President AH2 & Beyond Consulting Whitepaper 2015 1
  2. 2. Contents I. Executive Overview……….2 II. “Accountable” & “Personal” Leadership…..4 III. Where there’s “Ambiguity”….there’s “Silo Fire”……7 IV. Building “The Commercial Harmonization Project Team”……9 V. Leading an “Ambiguous” Cross-Functional Team……12 VI. Ambiguities’ best Friend….a “Matrix Culture”…….14 VII. Defining Cross-Functional Roles……17 VIII. Cross-Functional Leader “Value”…..22 IX. Closing…..23 References 2
  3. 3. I. Executive Overview The business world is evolving at an unprecedented rate and information required to do a job at peak performance is evolving with it. Modern organizations are becoming increasingly complex and streamlined which is forcing today’s CEO to become more hands-on then they normally like. The days of management just “passing the buck “on to an employee without any clarity or direction as depicted in the Dilbert comic strip has indeed passed. Recent increases in international competition have made it all too apparent that adjustments in traditional leadership methods are required if companies are to survive. This whitepaper will demonstrate the importance of having an effective Cross-Functional Leader, someone who can bring clarity, strategy, organization and a collaborative approach to any company. Unfortunately too few companies have either brought in someone or identified personnel that have Cross-Functional Leadership skill set, which has caused one of the most insidious problems in corporate America…. “Welcome to the wonderful world of AMBIGUITY” The “AmbiguousReality” The concept of “Ambiguity” is generally contrasted with vagueness. With ambiguity, specific and distinct interpretations are permitted (although some may not be immediately apparent), whereas with information that is vague, it is difficult to form any interpretation at the desired level of specificity. In other words “you say tomato I say tomahto”. “Ambiguity Reality” can cause a great deal of havoc for any organization if left untreated. The challenge however that is you can’t touch, smell, or physically see ambiguity but you can certainly feel it when affected by it. Now, before you jump on the popular science wagon and say ambiguity is a communication problem consider the fact that often times ambiguity occurs when there’s NO communication. One of my favorite authors that I go to frequently when it comes to leadership is Ferdinand F. Fournies (author of the bestselling “Why employees don’t do what they’re supposed to do and what to do about it”), Mr. Fournies captures what I think is a huge problem with how we interact (not communicate) with one another in today’s society: “It has become quite common in recent years to blame performance problems and organizational conflicts on poor communication. The face-to-face medium is the predominant medium of communication between manager and employee; therefore, it is of critical importance. I remember a story in the New York Times, following a baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. The story explained that when the score was Boston 5, Yankees 3 in the ninth inning, and the Yankees were at bat with two outs and two men on base, a new relief pitcher was sent in. The coach instructed him to pitch tough. The first pitch resulted in a home run. Afterward the coach was quoted by the New York Times: “If that’s pitching tough. I don’t know what pitching soft would be like”. Obviously there was a lack of communication”.1 1 “Coaching for improved work performance” (Ferdinand F. Fournies) 3
  4. 4. The “Ambiguous Reality” is that there’s no communication….or at least in the majority of cases not adequate communication. The “Cost Consequences” I’m not someone who uses fear to either influence or persuade a point, but when I uncovered the actual costs to a company where there’s rampant ambiguity and very little communication….well I had to pull the “fear card” from my pocket. In an SMB Communications Pain Study (Uncovering the Hidden Cost of Communication Barriers and Latency) authored by Siemens, reviewed small and medium sized business in 8 different countries, across 8 different verticals, and up to 400 employees experience in their daily business activities. An SMB with 100 employees could be leaking a staggering $524,569 annually as a result of communications barriers and latency. Communications barriers and latency surrounding everyday business process and collaboration is referred to as, “communications pain”. Not addressing these everyday communications pains leads to increased operating costs, unsatisfied customers, and impaired competitive advantage. Siemens commissioned the study performed by SIS International Research to uncover the real costs to small and medium businesses (SMBs) around the globe.2 Ambiguity or lack of communication costs millions of dollars every day, and most corporate leaders while understanding this don’t realize the full monetary consequences they play in this ambiguity web. The role of a Cross-Functional Leader can certainly provide value in supporting and enforcing the priorities of effective communication across the internal channel teams….but that responsibility has to be notary public by senior leadership. Effective communication is absolutely essential for managerial and organizational success. 2 SMB Communications Pain Study- “Uncovering the hidden cost of communications barriers and latency (Siemens March 10, 2009 4
  5. 5. II. “Accountable” & “Personal” Leadership Everyone in the organization should be held accountable towards ensuring there is widespread effective communication and less ambiguity. We know that communication is the platform between goal and the creation of performance standards and employee accomplishment. Employees who do not understand or have been clouded by ambiguity of what’s expected of them in the workplace have minimal if any chance of succeeding in their specific role. This is where Cross-Functional Leadership can play a critical role in helping to develop a culture free of ambiguity. Far too often that responsibility is bestowed primarily on the CEO and indeed they set the “culture table”, however, when that table has been set it’s up to everyone else to follow suit. Therefore, the accountability of effective communication rests with everyone in an organization and this can be broken down into two critical areas: “Accountable” & “Personal” Leadership. “Accountable Leadership” (The Practice of Leading Others to Lead Themselves) The main objectives of “Accountable Leadership” are to stimulate and facilitate self- leadership capability and practice, and further make the “Personal Leadership” process the central target of external influence. Ambiguity can be controlled when there’s accountability across all sections of a corporation, and that can be spearheaded by the Cross-Functional Leader. However, as mentioned today’s Cross-Functional Leader needs to have the capacity to develop their teams into “self-leaders” that way accountability works in parallel and importantly the teams feel empowered to ensure communication objectives are met. The first responsibility of the Cross-Functional Leader is to develop individual standards of performance, core competencies that explains what is expected and what “Good” looks like. “Cross-Functional Leadership” Strategies can include: • Educate employees by delegating important projects to them that require “collaboration”/”follow up and giving them autonomy. • Involve employees in long-range planning that requires “presentation”/ “clarity” of overall goals • Provide employees with mentors who serve as good role models but also display best practices when providing direction that requires specific and thorough communication. • Ensure there’s a commitment from employees to uphold the standard that has been set on effective communication, and to hold themselves accountable. “Accountable Leadership” ” Personal Leadership I. Personal Leadership Behaviors II. Personal Task Design III. Productive Thought Patterns Modeling Encouragement Goals Reinforcement Constructive Accountability Establishing “Personal Leadership” Systems 5
  6. 6. Accountable Leadership (“the concepts”): Antecedent: An event that precedes an individual’s behavior and establishes the occasion for the behavior. Antecedents frequently provide cues that inform individuals about what is expected and what behaviors will be reinforced. This is important for “Accountable Leadership” as they provide clues to expected behaviors among individual team members. Behavior: A target behavior that a manager wishes to concentrate on or change. This includes positive and negative feedback that is verbalized in specific terms that can be observed. Consequences: What happens as a result of the behavior? In order for a consequence to be effective in influencing behavior, it should be contingent upon the behavior desired. In other words, the consequence should only occur if a specific employee target behavior occurs. Using rewards to reinforce positive self-leadership is an essential part of the “Accountable Leadership” approach. “Personal Leadership” (Recognizing it) If there’s “Personal Leadership” behavior melted into the fabric of a company, all control over persons is ultimately self-imposed. When an organization inserts an infrastructure that promotes “effective communication” and is reinforced by the Cross-Functional Leader then there’s freedom to empower employees to evaluate themselves…hence sustaining a sense of “Personal Leadership”. Generally people have their own expectations, and react positively or negatively toward themselves in response to their own self-evaluations, and adding “effective communication” to that thinking can be a checks & balances. Keep in mind a company’s standards will not significantly influence their employee’s behavior if they are not accepted or empowered to, and similarly organizational rewards will not produce their desired affects if they are not valued by the employees receiving the rewards. Note: This suggests that an effective leader (“The Cross-Functional Leader”) must successfully influence the way people influence themselves. Antecedent (e.g. instructions, goals, models) Behavior (e.g. task performance, self-leadership behaviors) Consequences (e.g. contingent reward, and reprimand) 6
  7. 7. “Behavioral Strategies To Influence Ourselves” “Cognitive Dissonance” says if people lead themselves, is the person leading them really leading at all? The answer is yes, although specific leader behaviors can be quite different. The core difference is that there is much less emphasis on command and instruction—the “Accountable Leader” gets others to command and instruct themselves. “Accountable Leadership” requires power, although this power is indirect and subtle. Followers are treated like, and become, leaders. When the objective is to ensure everyone not just complies but embrace a policy such as effective communication and less ambiguity, there has to be a sense of empowerment and yes accountability in order for people to influence themselves. 1. Self-Set Goals • By establishing goals for both immediate work tasks and longer term career achievements, an employee establishes self-directions and priorities. 2. Example of Short-Term Goal • If a person knows they talk too much or provide message overload, limiting the number of messages transmitted at any one time or prioritize messages so that they’re received in bite size pieces….might be a reasonable self-imposed goal. 3. Example of Long-Term Goal • Joining “Toastmasters”/”Dale Carnegie” or an MBA course on effective communication that leads toward improving communication skills. “Every three months, each manager sits down…to chart his goals for the next term….The manager puts them in writing….There’s something about putting your thoughts on paper that forces you to get down to specifics. That way it’s harder to deceive yourself – or anybody else.” --- Lee Iacocca Even if unintentional, the Cross-Functional Leader’s self-leadership behavior inevitably serves as a model to subordinates. If effective communication is to be an integral part of the company’s culture, the first step for the Cross-Functional Leader in coaching “Personal Leadership” is to practice “Personal Leadership”. This means practicing effective communication and doing so in a vivid and recognizable manner that can serve as a model for others. Others will tend to adopt the standards they observe in exemplary models and then evaluate their performance against those standards. 7
  8. 8. III. Where there’s “Ambiguity”…there’s “Silo Fire” One of the most dangerous consequences to “Ambiguity” in the workplace is what I call “Silo Fire” and if not distinguished can burn a corporation to ashes. Whether it’s big corporate America or small mom & pop business whichever you find yourself in chances are you’ve been a victim or culprit of “Silo Fire”, which can ruin any size company. You find this (“Silo Fire”) often times between the sales & marketing departments, however, this is becoming more rampant across all sectors of business. Psychologists have identified defensive reactions that operate in everyone without the individual being conscious of their behavior. 3 Any communication (especially ambiguous communication) from either a senior leader or a subordinate that is considered one-way but the intention is meant a different way can evoke a defensive reaction that’s “silo” in nature. Responses from this type of ambiguity can range from resentment to hostility that can lead to uncooperative partnering on projects or solutions…..creating a “Silo Fire”. “Silo Fire” caused by pervasive “Ambiguity” can be torched by various ways including: • Company says it encourages teamwork/collaboration, but the ambiguity endorses aggressive competition without organized boundaries. • Employees because of ambiguity never feel valued which breeds resentment that festers to “Silo Fire”. • Because of the competitive ambiguity quotes like “My position is more valued than yours” (e.g. Sales & Marketing Wars) starts a “Silo Fire” that can be hard to put out. • Senior Management in company preaches transparency….but doesn’t practice it. As stated, the consequences of not addressing a “Silo Fire” caused by ambiguity can be deadly. Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., faculty member for the institute for Management states it best: “The truth is that silos can be a fatal flaw in communicating with customers or presenting a unified marketing message. The first step toward eliminating them is to realize how costly the silo mentality is. “It literally costs billions of dollars. “It leads to the duplication of effort, failure to leverage, confusing messages in the marketplace-or organization-and the loss of productivity in the organization…you’ve got to know how negative it is in order to address it”.4 Corporate senior leadership “Buy In” is a must. Building an environment that’s free of ambiguity is a culture change for many companies, and without leadership acceptance any attempt to work around ambiguity that’s causing the “Silo Fire” will inevitably FAIL. 3 Patrick J. Montana and Bruce H. Charnov “Management” 4 The Noodle-“Siloing” (Think Patented) 8
  9. 9. Perhaps this also is an opportunity for the Cross-Functional Leader to help orchestrate a process that will minimize the ambiguity and build an infrastructure that evades a “Silo Fire”. Possible steps to take: • Create a “Commercial Harmonization Project Team” • Build a nucleus leadership team that represents each business sector as this will help further lay the groundwork for internal buy in of the Harmonization Project. Directors/VP’s from each sector should be selected. • (Communication Platform) Developing vertical, horizontal, and diagonal communication plans that spell out Messaging, Mission & Vision that should be consistent across company(s) and product brands. • Leadership team will work together to build/implement a collaborative/team process for all commercial assets (e.g. marketing, brand, sales, operations, HR etc). • Identify and improve existing stand-alone processes and commercial strategies where leveraging key resources align with communication corporate strategy. • Implement a selected PM to keep everyone on task (“Commercial Harmonization Project Team”) and due date accountability. • Hold regular meetings with team members…avoid cancelling them at all costs. • Meet both in groups and individually. There are some things that shouldn’t be said in front of other team members in meetings that may come out in 1-on-1 sessions, this encourages a safe environment and may head off conflicts before they start. • Provide team members with constant feedback that encourages open dialogue minimize vacuum thinking, and in turn accept feedback from team members which solidifies credibility and integrity. • Lastly, a Cross-Functional Leader always thinks through the politics before they communicate. Before sending a message (oral or written), consider the potential effects the message may have after it’s received. Seems commonsensical…but often ignored. In the next section we’ll dive into the building of a “Commercial Harmonization Team” which will have an important role in encouraging and maintaining a corporate infrastructure of effective communication and minimal ambiguity. 9
  10. 10. IV. Building “The Commercial Harmonization Project Team” Project Management is probably one of the most important skills a Cross-Functional Leader should have in his/her arsenal. While it’s not necessary every Cross-Functional Leader should be a six sigma….having those skills wouldn’t hurt. Because the role of a Cross-Functional Leader can be vast depending on the size of the company and how many departments fall under that responsibility, the competence to keep on top of all the moving parts (e.g. department personnel, project priorities, budget, timelines, execution etc etc) can be daunting. Building a “Commercial Harmonization Project Team” compartmentalizes responsibility, project order, project efficiency, and project accountability….in other words everything is under one roof. The challenge dealing with corporate ambiguity is typically roles aren’t established, communication is scattered/inconsistent, and importantly accountability is often nonexistent. The below figure outlines strategies of the project: Figure 1 10
  11. 11. INTERIM PROCESS (Tactical Examples) • Reviewing Product Brand Strategies will help identify ambiguity gaps in input from key internal stakeholders (e.g. sales, marketing, regulatory/compliance, forecasting/finance, IT etc). • All brands will cross collaborate for resource leveraging and product reviewing processes. Look for opportunities to be more efficient (e.g. regulatory/compliance process, vendor management, brand strategy development, cross training of brands, etc) • Review and identify gaps in communication and collaboration among Sales, Marketing, Training, and Regulatory/Compliance. In addition, capture “Best Practices” share and leverage across ALL brands. Full transparency…limits “Silo Fire”. • Develop SOP’s/Guidelines that remove (ambiguity) duplications where it’s not efficient and it’s costly (e.g. multiple vendor resources, meetings without purpose or action steps). • Identify current projects within the commercial business that have no completion dates or outcome metrics tied to it….these projects are resource consuming and not economically productive. RETROSPECTIVE PROCESS (Tactical Examples) • Drawing up a “Corporate Resource Tree” will keep everyone knowledgeable & aware of what/who/where the resources are located for leverage/collaboration needs. • Building governance around effective communication, collaboration, and accountability, ownership in everything we do (e.g. meeting preparations, brand planning, sales execution, regulatory /compliance review process, forecasting, and budgeting). Every project/initiative will have one person responsible for the governance. • Cross Collaboration Training means there will be one day out of the month where each department internally (e.g. Marketing, Sales, IT, Regulatory/Compliance, Legal, Sales Operations) will provide an update to everyone in Company X their order of business. This will create more unity and less “Ambiguity”. • The overall “company competency model” (if there’s one in place) should be overhauled to include these new dynamics or re-built from bottom up. LONG-TERM PROCESS GOAL (Tactical Examples) • By the end of project you should have built processes for Collaboration, Brand Planning, Internal Governance, Business Efficiencies, and importantly Effective Communication. • The goal will NOT to be like other companies, but, build processes that look at our businesses differently and leverage our own internal resources that make sense for our business. • The goal is to push for Company X to be centers of excellence proficient towards effective communication and minimal ambiguity. • Successful metrics/results of this Commercial “Harmonization Project” will be limited to NO more “Silo Fire”, as a result of insidious ambiguity. 11
  12. 12. What does success look like? Figure 2 (What Good Looks Like) In today’s business world, there are many alternatives to the traditional memo or written report that outlines new policies and procedures to improve effective communication and minimize ambiguity. Building a “Commercial Harmonization Project Team” as said earlier compartmentalizes responsibility, efficiencies, accountability, and effective communication processes under one roof. It is absolutely critical to have a competent Cross-Functional Leader who can organize and develop such a team, and with the support of corporate senior leadership have the autonomy to set direction and hold team members accountable for said objectives. Ultimately, the team follows the lead of the Cross-Functional Leader and each team member does his/her best to fulfill the specific requirement of their role. Successful “Leadership” from the Cross Functional Leader should include: • Helping team members understand that they’re working on initiatives that involve more than 1 person, therefore they’ll need to communicate and cooperate with each other to get things done. • Identify and solve problems together and live with the results (together) and agree to support the common decision in public…as a team. • And of course, recognize that changes usually occur which may cause a spilling of ambiguity but with experience, adjustment and flexibility handle those ambiguous situations effectively. 12
  13. 13. V. Leading an “Ambiguous” Cross-Functional Team “Barbara” is a manager with more than 10 years of successful leadership experience. She’s been put in charge of a Cross-Functional team whose objective is to create a new way to package their company's products. She thought that she was prepared for this role, and she was really excited about working with such a diverse group of people. The trouble is, things aren't working out at all! All of the members of the team are highly accomplished in their functional areas, so “Barbara” assumed she could leave them with their respective tasks – and then meet every so often to move the project forward. She does this with her regular team all the time, and they come back with excellent results. But that's not happening with this group. Every meeting becomes an argument about which issues have the highest priority, and which perspective is the right one. In fact, every time people meet, there seems to be less progress than before, and people are obviously frustrated and de- motivated. “Barbara” thought that if she put together a team of responsible, highly capable individuals, they would be easy to manage. Instead, she feels as if they need one-on-one supervision to do even the smallest task. Why is “Barbara” having so many problems?”5 Okay, before you answer this question take a look at this snippet quote from again my favorite author Ferdinand F. Fournies: “Once you become a manager of people/team you no longer have the luxury of doing what comes naturally. In doing what comes naturally you are very likely involved in self- destructive behavior”.6 We can certainly point out the obvious areas where “Barbara” failed in her beginning attempts to lead a Cross-Functional team as a new Cross-Functional Leader, however the main point I want to focus on is what I call “assumptive management” which is not tied to just new Cross- Functional Leaders. Assumptive Management can absolutely bring about the worst ambiguity because the communication chain between management and employee doesn’t link at all. In the above example “Barbara” demonstrated “Assumptive Management” beautifully by assuming what worked in the past would work in the present, and then the biggest FAIL…..assuming an already in place accomplished team will manage itself. This example has the start of an ambiguous toxic environment, and unfortunately these types of stories are becoming common place in today’s corporate America. SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: Because Cross-Functional teams are distinct from teams that have a singular functional purpose, a “chameleon” approach to management and leadership is necessary. For example one group has the same nomenclature from which it works and communicates from, however, a Cross- Functional team has a myriad of stakeholders and nomenclature who have a vested interest in their own respective areas (e.g. Sales, IT, Finance, Legal, R&D, Marketing etc). 5 “Mind Tools” (Essential skills for an excellent career) 6 Ferdinand F. Fournies (Coaching for Improved Work Performance) 13
  14. 14. The diversity of departments, thoughts, ideas and yes personalities provide an interesting landscape for the Cross-Functional Leader. Leading such a group takes different types of skills, and often times people placed in these roles aren’t equipped with the necessary competencies to manage such complexities. This is where ambiguity rears its ugly head because if you are someone placed in this role without the proper developmental skills, the normal reaction is to “do what comes naturally” (as my friend Ferdinand F. Fournies stated above) and the result of that is an ambiguous train wreck. So, if you find yourself thrust in a Cross Functional Leadership role what skills should you have and what should you be attentive too? Figure 3 (Cross-Functional Leadership Skills) 14
  15. 15. VI. Ambiguities’ best friend…a “Matrix Culture” “Matrix Management”: is the practice of managing individuals with more than one reporting line, but it is also commonly used to describe managing cross functional, cross business group and other forms of working that cross the traditional vertical business units – often silos - of function and geography. 7 Full transparency, I’m not a fan of organizational matrix management… least how some companies install it. However, a company like Boeing utilizes the matrix organizational model to perfection. The #1 reason why Boeing implements the matrix structure at centers of excellence level is because they’ve placed “COMMUNICATION” at the center of its function. Ambiguity blossomed from ineffective communication is one of the major reasons why many organizations applying a matrix infrastructure fail. The matrix infrastructure Boeing put in place allows communication to flow more freely but it instills accountability from the project team and its project managers. Accountability often times is missing in companies that do not have a tightly controlled matrix infrastructure and typically what happens is…..yep you guessed it “ambiguity”. Figure 4 (Boeing Org Chart) Boeing uses “Corporate Governance”, as the company is overseen by its executive staff and board of directors. The executive staffs and board of directors use integration to run the organization. Boeing’s use of integration brings the Executive council, Capital Corporation, Commercial Airplanes, Engineering, Operations, and Technology, Integrated Defense Systems, and Shared Services Group together via the Senior Vice Presidents to make decisions about how to stay competitive and increase revenue. Boeing is a centralized 7 From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 15
  16. 16. organization high-level executive’s make most decisions and pass them down to lower levels for implementation. 8 Boeing maintains a tight and consistent level of communication in between its structure and that’s why the matrix infrastructure has been successful in the organization. Boeing is a perfect example of how the organizational matrix structure can work and why “Communication” is the key to this type of infrastructure. However, Boeing is an anomaly; take for example a research project conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton “Challenges & Strategies of a Matrix Organization” (Top-Level & Mid-Level Management Perspectives). Using surveys, interviews, and workshops with 294 Top-Level & Mid-Level Managers from 7 major multinational corporations in 6 industries, we identified the top 5 contemporary challenges of the matrix organizational form: (1) misaligned goals, (2) unclear roles and responsibilities, (3) ambiguous authority, (4) lack of a matrix guardian, and (5) silo-focused employees. Companies selected for the study had operated within a matrix structure from three years to more than 20 years, and were either in the initial stage of implementing a matrix structure (e.g. two companies in the process of transitioning from a traditional hierarchical structure to a two-dimensional matrix), in the process of restructuring their matrix structure (e.g. three companies reorganizing their matrix structure to focus on different business dimensions-e.g., shift from focusing on region and function to region and product), or recognized as a high-performing matrix organization (e.g., two companies identified as high- functioning matrix organizations by industry experts and the organizational literature). While each company in the study experienced unique obstacles, many challenges were common to all. The top five common challenges reported by participants were misaligned goals, unclear roles and responsibilities, ambiguous authority, lack of a matrix guardian, and silo- focused employees. Each challenge was accompanied with empirical data and anecdotes from study participants to illustrate the challenges: Figure 5 (Matrix Challenges) 8 16
  17. 17. A somewhat surprising finding from the research is that few companies track the performance of their matrix structure to understand how well the company operates. Clearly without performance metrics, corporate leadership will find it very difficult to spot problems and take the necessary steps to fix them. While all of the listed challenges in the graph above pose major issues in a matrix model, the one that carries a larger burden is “ambiguous authority”. Ambiguous authority” by far is the #1 culprit of employee HR issues, poor vacancy rates, lack of hierarchical clarity, turf battles etc. In the more traditional hierarchical structure, leadership profiles are quite clear: “Leaders generally view their roles as taking charge and making the tough calls and are not accustomed to sharing decision rights. This lack of experience in collaborative decision-making creates “ambiguity” and results in tension and conflict as leaders jockey for power and control. 9 In the majority of the matrix systems leaders within an organization can have responsibility without authority as the consequence of a “Dual Reporting” infrastructure. An example that was pointed out in the Booz Allen research where HR has the responsibility for instituting a global policy (e.g. Corporate Competency Model) but have no authority for implementing it at regional levels, and not surprising someone at the regional leadership level decides to rebuff the initiative decision of the HR leader…..conflict starts. A dual leadership reporting structure if not developed, operated, and managed properly can create turmoil for any company and it has for many. The word “Developed” is key because while many companies are either contemplating moving to a matrix structure or have just haphazardly changed over from a traditional leadership approach, the aspect of developing a cogent transition plan is often a rarity. The Boeing example while an anomaly obviously developed a pre-transition “transitioning plan” prior to moving into a matrix structure and the result was a successful one. The conclusion and perhaps the larger point of the research was that a large number of the participants had very little knowledge or training on how to operate in a matrix structure which increased the ambiguity tension more. 9 Booz Allen Hamilton (Challenges, Strategies of Matrix Organizations) 17
  18. 18. VII. Defining Cross-Functional Roles Perhaps there’s no more important responsibility of a Cross-Functional Leader than how he/she defines the Cross-Functional roles of the team. If roles aren’t defined thoroughly and communicated properly “Ambiguity” can start its descent very quickly. In section 3 (Building “The Commercial Harmonization Project Team”) I mentioned a very important skill a Cross- Functional Leader should have is project management and again doesn’t necessarily has to be at the level of a six sigma, however, constructing and defining positional roles requires “Grade A” PM skills. Unlike your typical specialized teams (e.g. marketing, sales, finance, IT, HR etc) where there’s a single centralized focus, the Cross-Functional Team is decentralized and has a mixture of various specialties….a pot of “Gumbo” sort of speak. However, while a typical Cross Functional Team is made up of different disciplines the objective is to coalesce people with complementary skills who are selected for a specific task and are mutually accountable for the collective team’s success. Cross-Functional Leaders need to carefully consider the knowledge and skills for each individual and define the value each brings to the collective. If we look at a position in corporate America that closely reflects a Cross-Functional Leadership role that would be the “Chief Commercial Officer”, who typically has responsibility for sales, marketing, operations, and training. While most of the focus of the CCO is sales & marketing, the most talented CCO’s are very well skilled in multiple areas…..and understand the true essence of Cross Functional Leadership. For the CCO the step in building an effective Cross-Functional Team is to determine what kinds of people (e.g. “team leads”) you need to help build the process. A personnel inventory should be completed to help understand the backgrounds/skills of your Cross-Functional Team prior to diving into any initiative: • What kinds of experience do they have, or is training on specific skills needed? • What is the prior performance on previous projects/initiatives (helps to indicate performance metrics)? • What are the individual interests in “team dynamics” (helps to identify “team players”)? • From your summation will your team work well in a team environment? 18
  19. 19. Certainly depending on the specific business needs there are probably additional inventory questions you can list that will help you sort through your teams’ acumen and competencies. After an inventory of your team has been completed the process of establishing roles and responsibilities and who would be best to fit that puzzle would be the next step in building the team’s infrastructure. Going back to our CCO as the Cross-Functional Leader he/she may develop position profiles that fit the team’s objective, those could include: Position Profiles 10 After the personnel inventory and personnel profile are complete then the CCO can now start placing qualified personnel in designated positions based on individual strengths. The great thing about this Cross-Functional Team model is that it accomplishes a couple of nice functions: 1) There’s accountability and minimal ambiguity because there are designated roles filled by designated personnel that support the entire organization, 2) There is a high level of specific communication for each position/designate to be able execute on planned initiatives, 3) Each member of the team gains valuable experience from a communication, skill development, and empowerment perspective. 10 Kramer Consulting Solutions, Inc. 19 Business Acumen: Identify and measure the contribution to company Business Problem Solving: Identify business challenges and opportunities within company Business Relationships: Coordinate/Work with internal stakeholders to develop plan of action Communications: Design a communication plan between strategic business partners Developing & Coaching: Develop career development process and coaching planning infrastructure HR Management: Personalize staff development. Develop a clear direction on all HR issues Market Knowledge: Understand the position of our competition globally Product Knowledge: Maintaining Centers of Excellence corporate product knowledge Resource/Budget: Develop a tracking system and monitor corporate spending from all channels Information Technology: Evaluating the impact of future technologies and changes in the marketplace
  20. 20. Managing Performance/Results After defining roles, positions and the overall Cross-Functional Team personnel infrastructure, it’s the responsibility of the Cross-Functional Leader to manage the performance results. In turn an evaluation of the Cross-Functional Leader’s impact to be able to successfully minimize or eliminate ambiguity within the team and ultimately the corporation is measured as well. In addition, the Cross-Functional Leader has to define objectives for the team, assign responsibilities, and develop within the team standards of performance. At the end of a quarter or half year, there is an appraised performance against the agreed upon standards (usually supported by corporate senior leadership) and prepare to repeat the entire rotation. At the beginning of any project that requires collaboration and of course active communication, the process will look like this for the Cross-Functional Leader: Goals • Understand the need to monitor and control the specific project’s process • Devise different tools to help monitor implementation (e.g. including daily meetings, and self-audits) • If you have access to different types of control charts and when they would be appropriate Active Follow-up, Correction, and Support “Active follow-up” refers to a regularly scheduled check meeting the Cross Functional Leader has with their team during which the current process results are reviewed, problems shared, actions assigned, and previous assignments reviewed. The meetings are typically brief (10-15 minutes) and are very action oriented. The point is to quickly discuss what is currently happening in the process (e.g. communication issues, confusion of position objectives, ambiguity), and identify action items, assign responsibility for follow-up. Since the meetings are focused on resolving problems, they allow you to make changes in direction if need be and in general keep team members on track and on target. The meetings can be daily, weekly or monthly as appropriate. Ideally, you may want the meetings kept small so they can be kept focused. 20 Standardize and Document Effective Communication Methods Establish Ongoing Project Monitoring Evaluating Results Communicate, Summarize Key Learning and Transcribe Future Plans
  21. 21. Procedure Self-Audit A self-audit is an effective way to check on the status of standard practices being implemented. A portion of the questions are shown below, you certainly can build in a much fuller set of questions that are designed so that a “YES” (Always)” answer means the process is being done according to the agreed-on-methods. If the Cross-Functional Leader is obtaining mostly “Yesses” and are still getting poor results from the process, then something in the standard need to be changed and improved. Directions: The Cross-Functional Leader together with members of his/her team, answer the following questions to determine the effectiveness of the specific project or initiative. The self-auditors need to note areas of discrepancy to determine if the agreed upon objective needs correction or if the team participants need to understand the project’s objective better (e.g. eliminating any ambiguity). Analysis of discrepancies will uncover areas for improvement. Inputs Daily Meeting Output • Results (e.g. communication flow, internal stakeholder feedback • Process Measures • Problems (e.g. communication bottleneck, unclear objectives, delays, “Ambiguity”) Action Items Follow-Up 21
  22. 22. You have probably noticed that some of the questions appear to be simplistic regarding specific team direction, and that is purposely done in order to eliminate any ambiguity that could delay or impact the performance of the project and its participants. One of the things we find happens a great deal in corporate America is the lack of clarity when it comes to giving instructions, and reasons for that often vary but a consistent issue is this apprehension of “talking down to someone”. As with most communication it’s “HOW” something is said versus what is being said, so it’s up to the Cross- Functional Leader to ensure communication is clear, understandable and cogent… as to avoid ambiguity. In addition, you may also have observed the number of feedback questions listed in the above self-audit chart, a quote from Barron’s Business Review Series (“Management”) sums up the importance of feedback & clarity exceptionally: “A word can have several different meanings. It has one denotative meaning, the explicit definition of a term, but may have many connotative meanings or meanings by association. These may interfere with effective communication since the message sender intends one meaning but the receiver assumes a different meaning. Unless the sender uses feedback to learn of the misunderstanding, he or she may not know that faulty communication has taken place”.11 11 Barron’s Business Review Series (Streamlined Course for Business People-“Management”) 22
  23. 23. VIII. Cross-Functional Leader “Value” I hope this whitepaper has provided at least an awareness of the significant problems ambiguity can cause in a corporate environment. Unfortunately, many companies have not done a good job tackling the ambiguity problem for a myriad of reasons; mainly because there’s just not enough time to make it a priority. Certainly, it makes sense to focus on tangible items that you can “touch”, “smell”, and “hold” (e.g. sales results, operations, marketing, finance etc), and thus an issue like ambiguity is seen as a behavior which can be either brushed over or worked through, both options don’t work and can very quickly as we discussed cause significant problems. Ambiguity can cause havoc in many different ways as we reviewed in the Booz Allen Hamilton research, and when left unaddressed can literally take down a corporation. We pointed out earlier that in an improperly designed matrix organization “ambiguous authority” can cause all kinds of unwanted issues. Confusion over who has final authority, lack of clarity on areas of accountability and delay in decision-making processes can be a huge problem for a company especially if it’s brushed over as a human resources issue…which commonly happens. I truly think having a capable, experienced, and of course excellent communicator in a Cross Functional Leader can provide a tremendous amount of value in addressing many of the problems associated with ambiguity in a corporation. A Cross-Functional Leader who has responsibility for various segments (e.g. sales, marketing, operations, training) can provide significant value if indeed there is a problem with ambiguity and lack of centralized management leadership. In addition, I think someone who has a “Process Excellence” background who understands team organization, work- flow, group dynamics, and group execution planning provides a tremendous value to the Cross- Functional Leader role and in some measure can remove some of that burden away from the CEO. It’s clear that a CEO who’s chief responsibility is ensuring there’s a corporate profit realized, has a tremendous amount on his/her plate and managing ambiguity issues is not something stockholders would accept. “Cognitive Dissonance” to Change For many of you this whitepaper offers an opportunity to re-look at your organizational leadership dynamics. What I’ve tried to spell out in this whitepaper is a different way of looking at your leadership that has multiple levels of responsibility in the organization. I absolutely understand and am sympathetic to the challenges associated with “Change”, and areas that I have presented in this report would take a significant amount of energy in the form of change for a company to consider. Attacking ambiguity I think is worth that consideration. If we look at the financial costs of “Change” and how that may affect human behavior, consider this statement in a May 22, 2014 Gallop report: “Behavioral Economics—the study of how human thought and behavior affects financial decisions—provides us with clues for why creating lasting organizational change is so difficult. Factors such as status quo bias (a preference for keeping things the same) and 23
  24. 24. loss aversion (the tendency to prefer avoiding losses more strongly than acquiring gains) interacts to stack the odds against employees acting very differently for very long”. 12 Certainly, there’s a “cognitive dissonance” when it comes to making a change against something that’s not tangible or sometimes not easily defined (e.g. “ambiguity”). We discussed earlier the financial consequences of not addressing the ambiguous issues that take place in the office, and how that can have a profound impact on a company’s bottom line. Organizational politics, silos, and turf battles exert a major drag on the operations of a company, and can impact any change implementation if not dealt with. Incorporating a Cross-Functional Leader with the necessary skills who can incorporate a structured approach that addresses such ambiguous issues…is priceless value. IX. Closing From a blog post I presented May 4, 2014 (EARNING MY MBA….in “Corporate America”!): Being in “Corporate America” for almost 30 years does leave some scars…I have some marks to prove that. However, I would NOT edit that experience for all the money in the world…I’m serious. During my time with some of the biggest most influential companies within the healthcare sector I literally use to keep a religious journal to track my trying times just to keep me sane. I am by nature a very competitive person I DO NOT LIKE TO LOSE, but that mentality while attractive to some was not healthy in an environment dictated by the principle that you better NOT LOSE. All of the positions I held in corporate America related to sales so the pressure to succeed was not unusual what I wasn’t prepared to deal with was the “AMBIGUITY”. Years ago it was explained to me by a mentor that as I move through my career it would come a time when your performance won’t matter…WHAT??? What do you mean my performance won’t matter (I whispered terrifyingly), I thought our lives were built on our ability to succeed? This didn’t make any sense to me until I gradually moved up the proverbial “Food Chain” and then the s*** hit the fan. Yes, the battle scars of having gone through the “AMBIGUITY” wars of corporate America has strengthen my resolve but importantly helped me realize that this world is not about me it’s about how I can help others learn from my experiences. At the beginning of this passage I said I would not change anything about my time in corporate America and I stick by that because now I’m an effective “Person” who has helped many people since that time and quite frankly that would not have happen had I not gone through those experiences. 12 GALLUP MAY 22, 2014 (“Why Creating Organizational Change Is So Hard”) 24
  25. 25. References Ann Blaisius, J. C. (2008, December 1). Boeing Organizational Structure. Retrieved from Slideshare (Boeing Organizational Structure): Charnov, P. J. (1987-1993). "MANAGEMENT" (A streamlined Course for business people). Hauppauge, New York 11788: Barron's Business Review Series. Chee Tung, L. (2014, May 22). Why Creating Organizational Change Is So Hard. Retrieved from Gallup: Fournies, F. F. (2000). Coaching For Improved Work Performance. McGraw Hill. Garrison, G. (n.d.). "Siloing". Retrieved from The Noodle: 2/siloing/ Kramer, D. (1999). Leadership Development Competencies. Kramer Consulting Solutions. Siemens. (March 10, 2009). "Uncovering the hidden cost of communications barriers and latency". SMB Pain Study. Thomas Sy, L. S. (n.d.). Challenges, Strategies of Matrix Organizations. Retrieved from Booz Allen Hamilton: Tools, M. (n.d.). Managing Cross-Functional Teams. Retrieved from Mind Tools: Wikipedia. (n.d.). Definition of Matrix Management. Retrieved from Wikipedia: Figures The below figure outlines strategies of the project: Figure 1............................................................10 Figure 2 (What Good Looks Like)........................................................................................................12 Figure 3 (Cross-Functional Leadership Skills).....................................................................................14 Figure 4 (Boeing Org Chart) ................................................................................................................15 Figure 5 (Matrix Challenges)................................................................................................................16 25