Building collaborative new product processes: Why instituting teams is not enough

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Publication Date

Winter 2003


A growing segment of managers in high-technology firms seem convinced that cross-functional teams charged with new product development (NPD) can cut costs, increase creativity, and reduce time to market (Brown and Eisenhardt, 1995; Griffin and Hauser, 1996). Teams are expected to help transform linear-sequential new product development initiatives into organic processes by streamlining decision-making and organizing a bulk of the activities concurrently. In part, this conviction reflects the apparent weaknesses of the linear-sequential, assembly line organization of new product activities in which each department performs its task in isolation and throws its output over the wall to the next functional group. A large body of research has highlighted the problems associated with this approach including: (a) high incidence of mistakes because one department often dominates while others perform subordinate tasks and are not involved in key decisions (Griffin and Hauser, 1996; Sheremata, 2000; Zahra and Ellor, 199 3), (b) a slow pace of development because each department is concerned more with turf-protection and avoiding blame for mistakes than with sharing information (Donnellon, 1993; Griffin and Hauser, 1996; Zabra and Ellor, 1993), and (c) a higher cost of NPD resulting from the mistakes and need for rework later in the process (Ancona and Caldwell, 1990; Jassawalla and Sashittal, 1999).

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