New Product Team Leaders

I read an article from the California Management Review entitled, “Strategies of effective new product team leaders” by Avan R Jassawalla; Hemant C Sashittal.  This article is about cross-functional teams and how they are used for new product development (NPD).  They also discuss how they have been able to teach effective ways for teams to work together and thrive.  The cross-functional teams involve a wide range of technical specialties including research and development, engineering, marketing, and production.  The teams all work together to make the best products “faster and cheaper.”  I would like to write a quote from the article that I thinks summarizes the entire article, “They create a social environment in which teams come to resemble less a battleground for turf protection behaviors and more a sanctuary in which people with divergent orientations and talents can share hidden agendas, ask for help, take risks, and develop collaborative relationships with others.”

Cross-functional teams are able to thrive because of trust and teamwork.  In the quote above it says, “share hidden agendas.”  In Beyond Bullsh*t by Samuel A. Culbert, the sharing of hidden agendas is what Culbert refers to as straight-talk and these teams are able to get rid of the bullsh*t.  Straight-talk is “power-sharing,” “you extend support for the other person’s agenda, provide guidance on how he or she might be more effective, are concerned for their general well-being, and expect comparable consideration in return.”  The cross-functional teams are putting their biases and agendas on the table so everyone can use them and work together.  An example of this is in the article the team leader made the engineering team check with the production team to make sure they will be able to build the new products.  The engineers may have made something great that they could not reproduced, and now they have wasted time and money.

Another part of the article I want to bring up is the role of the Senior Management.  Senior management selects the team leaders and they influence innovation within the organization.  The Senior Managers select the team leaders and train them to be effective.  The team leader usually has a set of technical skills that she brings, but she is ultimately taught how to work with her people.  Team leaders are taught to ensure commitment, remain transparent, facilitate, strengthen human relations, and foster learning.  A lot of companies will train you job specific skills after a promotion, but they won’t teach people skills and how to work well with a team.  It is often implied why someone is promoted, whether it is their leadership skills or technical skills, but at the cross-functional team level you will be taught personal and leadership skills because they want to ensure they made the correct decision in promoting you.

I would like to give acknowledgement to Avan R Jassawalla and Hemant C Sashittal for allowing using a quote from pg. 35 or their article “Strategies of effective new product team leaders”.

I would also like to acknowledge Samuel A. Culbert for using a quote from his book Beyond Bullsh*t on pg. 49. 

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One response to “New Product Team Leaders

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