Companies have long struggled to break down silos and boost cross-functional collaboration—but the challenge is getting more acute. The speed of market change requires a more rapid adaptation of products and services, while customers increasingly expect an organization to present them with a single face. Even well-established multinationals routinely fail to manage operations end to end.1The result: interactions with customers are sluggish; complex, customized products are hard to create on time and on budget; and blocked lines of communication make new sales and distribution channels difficult to navigate.

The basic principles for improving performance—imposing stretch targets from the center, empowering cross-functional teams, standardizing processes, tightening up execution—are mostly familiar. But making these things happen is a different matter. In many companies, ownership of processes and information is fragmented and zealously guarded, roles are designed around parochial requirements, and the resulting internal complexity hinders sorely needed cross-business collaboration. What’s more, in our experience, companies that apply traditional solutions (such as lean and business-process reengineering) either exhaust their managers with efforts to rework every process across business units or, by contrast, focus too narrowly within functions