Adoption of change management best practices continues to be offered as a route towards improved cost, quality and productivity of public services. These approaches are predominantly drawn from private sector research and their application by the public sector remains a relatively under-researched area. In this article we investigate with three case studies of local authorities one popular private sector change management approach – cross-functional team-based working. We analyse the varying success of three cross-functional teams and the organisational mechanisms that supported their implementation. We identify four requirements for success. The first three concur with established private sector research on cross-functional working (the need for the organisational leader to clearly support the team; cultural and structural issues that support cross-functional integration; funding support), although we find greater subtlety needed in their application in the public sector. Our research also uncovers a fourth critical requirement – the need to break the status-quo and overcome resistance to change. We find no evidence that these conditions cannot be met in the public sector and suggest cross-functional teams as a positive approach to be integrated in public sector change programmes.