Implementing cross-functional change initiatives can be daunting. First you need to consider how to execute the change. Then you need to worry about what you can do to ensure adoption of the change by the organization. And beyond roll-out, how do you guarantee this new change becomes part of the daily job responsibilities for those impacted colleagues? Flawless execution alone won’t ensure adoption and alignment.

Breaking down the change efforts into smaller steps can help you reach your desired goals and perhaps reduce anxiety along the way.

In my earlier blog Identifying Customer Needs & Critical Business Opportunities, I talked about an instance where I identified a customer need for a university I was working for. Check out that Blog for the initial steps on identifying opportunities and gaining C-level support.

So we will start with the understanding that the change initiative has been identified, approved and prioritized by the C-suite. What comes next?

STEP 1: Create cross-functional team. Ensure representation across teams impacted by change and leading the initiative. This team becomes your ambassadors for change.

  • For this instance the team consisted of multiple colleagues within marketing department, compliance and operations.


STEP 2: Identify key senior stakeholders across impacted departments and locations. You can solicit your cross-functional team’s inputs on who the stakeholders may be and what objections might occur.

  • For this instance the cross-functional team was instrumental in identifying possible roadblocks and providing ideas on how to overcome them.


STEP 3: Sell the concept. Keep selling the solution across functions, teams and departments and meeting after meeting. Ask to speak at department or team meetings. Participate in department meetings with those who will execute the initiative. Ask that your cross-functional team sell in the idea to their team members to ensure both a top-down and bottoms-up approach.

Remember to speak to the initiative’s alignment to the company’s culture to increase likelihood of adoption and success. Include how the initiative ties to customer needs and a critical company-wide opportunity.

  • For my situation, two parts of the culture were key to the solution’s adoption and success:
    • Company values of accountability and ownership
    • Company mission of students first


STEP 4: Gain buy-in across all departments. Asked for their inputs and provide them with an opportunity to get some skin in the game.

  • In this instance, the locations and impacted internal locations were asked for tactical support. They identified the team members who would be taking on these new responsibilities of the 3 Step Process.


STEP 5: Finalize the solution and develop required support such as a policy, process and procedures. In my earlier blog, I noted that solutions would vary based on your organization, needs and issues. The best solutions come from inputs from stakeholders and subject matter experts (SMEs).

  • For me the solution was a better way to develop communications across the university that aligned accountability with the appropriate functional unit. This was done through a new policy and guidelines resulting in a 3-Step Review Process.


STEP 6: Make the solution as easy and painless as possible. I know that can be a challenge, but you are up to it!

  • In this instance, marketing automation software to used to ease the burden of execution. Automated workflows directed items for review to the appropriate colleagues. Automated email reminders were sent to help ensure reviews were completed within the SLAs (service level agreements) for turnaround time.


STEP 7: Training – initial and ongoing training is mandatory for success.

  • We conducted rounds of training over 6 weeks for all levels, including department leaders and location points of contact. We had monthly webinars for a minimum of six months where updates were provided and any open questions were answered.


STEP 8: Annual review, regular maintenance and adapting the solution when necessary. When creating a new policy, this is never a one and done effort. You can determine how regularly you need to review and adjust the solution.

  • We conducted an informal review at three and six months to assess adoption and adherence to the policy. We also had an annual review of policy, process and procedures. Since this solution was based on pre-identified colleagues performing the reviews any personnel changes impacted the process. Those changes were made within the marketing automation system as needed and in advance of any updates to the published policy.


Photo by Amy Mikel: The Smallest Theater in the World where you still need to sell the show to 99 people. Teatro della Concordia, Monte Castello di Vibio, Italy. September 2016.

Interested in the Smallest Theater of the World? Check it out here. Teatro della Concordia, the smallest in the world. (2013, December 15). Italian Ways. Retrieved from:

The 4 Disciplines of Execution. (2017). Franklin Covey Co. Retrieved from: