Building Collaborative Cross-Functional New Product Teams

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The emergence of cross-functional teams has outpaced our understanding of how and why they work the way they do. Although cross-functional teams have improved new product processes in many organizations, not all work equally well, nor are all equally collaborative. Our recent study of high technology-based industrial organizations shows that collaborative behaviors are difficult to learn, and seldom result from mere membership on teams. Some teams consisting of representatives from R&D, production, marketing, and other functional groups transform and adopt collaborative behaviors and accelerate new product development processes. Others are challenged by issues of interpersonal interaction and commiting to a common agenda. This article highlights the nature of learning that occurs and the developmental milestones that characterize the process by which groups of individuals transform into collaborative new product teams.

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