Cross functional innovation teams

Cross functional development teams seems like a no-brainer:

  1. Having representatives from marketing, finance, operations, customer service, etc. involved early should speed the development process by allowing communication and coordination to be performed in parallel instead of linear fashion.
  2. Diversity of ideas and viewpoints should aid decision-making.

However, managing cross-functional teams is not trivial. There is a rich literature in management on difficulties in communication, increased turnover and conflict from diversity. So it should perhaps not have been that surprising that the Henard and Szymanski meta-analysis did not find cross-fuctional integration to be a strong antecedent of success in product development.

The current issue (March) of the Journal of Product Innovation Management is a special issue devoted to cross functional teams in new product development. I have not yet read the full issue, but will likely post more info as I read it.

For those who like a summarized version, NC State put out a news release about two of the articles that were co-authored by members of its faculty.

“When it comes to leading a team tasked with developing new products and bringing them to market, new research from North Carolina State University shows that being nice and playing well with others gives you a very real competitive advantage. One new study shows that project managers can get much better performance from their team when they treat team members with honesty, kindness and respect. A second study shows that product development teams can reap significant quality and cost benefits from socializing with people who work for their suppliers.” The full release is here:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-03/ncsu-sst031709.php

[A quick note to basketball fans. I will likely extend my 20-year record of losing a Tokyo-based “March Madness” pool as I indeed selected Radford to beat North Carolina.

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/mensbasketball/bigsouth/2009-03-12-radford-cover_N.htm]

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