Medical Device Division at Allergan


How does a cross-functional team in a highly politicized environment align to meet aggressive performance goals?

Executive Summary

A recently acquired medical device company languishes with a poorly conceived, cross-functional leadership team. A Gap Analysis reveals primary constraints to: 1) leading teams effectively; and 2) delivering value to customers. The team engages on a journey to higher performance through resolving these constraints.


Key distinction:  Primary Constraint to Leading Teams Effectively

At any given point in time, a team has one primary constraint to leading change. Resolving this constraint is the highest return investment that can be made in creating an effective business culture.

Featured Frameworks

Seven Principals For High Performing Teams℠

The 4 A’s For Team Feedback℠    

Leadership Effectiveness Coaching


The problem is, in a word, politics.

Five functional leaders are given shared leadership for the development of an innovative medical device used in breast reconstruction. The decision to have five equal leaders is made to avoid hiring a new leader, and to avoid power dynamics elsewhere in the organization.

Each leader reports up into separate silos: R&D, Manufacturing, Quality, Marketing, Regulatory. Reporting lines, when diagrammed, look like cobwebs. MBOs across the team conflict; team members are incentivized to work in opposition. Tensions over the competition for resources and conflicting priorities rise. Mistrust and unresolved conflict emerge; productivity drops as costs climb.

Ineffective interdependencies between key players, particularly R&D, Quality, and Manufacturing are killing performance (e.g., “Our individual MBOs are in direct conflict.”). The team has been investing in PMO capabilities to manage the complexity - and making little headway.

That’s because it’s the wrong investment in the wrong problem. The culture is broken. The Primary Constraint to Leading Effectively is an ineffective mindset across the team (e.g., “We have team members who won’t talk to each other.”).

The decision-making hierarchy — or lack of it — is a bad idea. We say so and are given a contract to raise the team’s performance.

The Journey To Higher Performance

The architecture for this engagement is the Seven Principals For Effective Teams℠.

The logic of these seven principles enables leaders and teams to manage the impact of change across all of the parts of the business system. In other words, following this cascading sequence of principles enables you to address the complexities of both business culture and business performance at the same time.

This approach minimizes resistance. It maximizes strategic agility. It ensures progress that is systematic and real. And it creates sustainability.

1    Gap Analysis

Based on data and analysis, primary constraints are precisely identified. Working closely with the CEO, a sequence of breakthrough experiences for the team is designed. This governs, in turn, the design of a two-day workshop to drive all critical conversations to resolution.

2     High Performance Team Culture Workshop

The goal is to create breakthrough experiences — to demonstrate ways of working together that trump all the excuses. Team members discover trust through straight talk. They engage in a feedback session utilizing The 4 A’s℠, a powerful framework for measuring leadership mindset. This establishes a rational, shared language for supporting each other’s development. HPT protocols for conflict resolution, compelling requests and effective meetings are committed to. Processes are designed to facilitate engagement across silos and teams.

The 4A's are Attentiveness, Assertiveness, Authenticity and Accountability. (See image for example.)


3     Influencing Strategies

In a subsequent one-day meeting an influencing strategy is designed to clear out the cobwebs of ineffective reporting lines. Individuals are designated for managing key stakeholders, and communication protocols are established to resolve conflicts.

4    Team Coaching

A series of subsequent meetings (1-3 hours in length) are conducted to reinforce learnings from the initial workshops. Key issues —and ownership — are identified. Handoffs between function leaders are clarified. A Priorities Matrix is created and dates and performance metrics agreed to. The team begins to set the stage for one member to become the site leader.

5    Second-Tier Team: High Performance Team Culture Workshop

As constraints in the senior team are resolved, it becomes clear that a second-tier team has become the choke-point. The process of team alignment is initiated. The Gap Analysis reveals that an ineffective Mindset must be addressed (e.g., “Our meetings are so bad we want to climb up the walls to escape.”). A one-day workshop provides rational frameworks for resolving conflict. These shared frameworks both increase the precision and speed of decision-making not only within the team, but across the organization.

6    Leadership Effectiveness Coaching

As a result of the aggressive schedule and the improving performance of the team, HR flags missing competencies in one key leader. A 360 Leadership Gap Analysis is conducted and based on the five competencies of effective leaders. One-on-one coaching ensues for a period of six months. 


The primary constraints to team effectiveness were resolved on the senior team and key second-tier team, notably enhanced performance in a politicized, siloed environment to hit ambitious product launch dates.

All participants rated the engagements above 95% effective in terms of right issues and real progress made.