Team Dynamics

Systems and processes don't produce and market new products successfully— people do. We would like to describe the typical new product development team as a high-performance team, but the reality is that new product development is a messy and often frustrating process. We believe that the common picture of a high-performance team is a construct of an unreal, abstract, and academic view of teamwork. Those of us with experience in program and project management in a new product development setting feel that this ideal vision of a team view simply does not describe what actually happens in producing a new product and rolling it out. It sets expectations too high, given human nature. The reality of guiding and managing a new product team involves the following realities of today's often irrational and badly managed new product company setting.

Small coalitions: There are many small coalitions of team members who work together to produce pieces of the new product process, with a lot of conflict involved. Communications are sporadic and vertical, often with no predictable patterns. Language and culture differences are increasing, especially with global outsourcing. Program managers mix with corporate managers and officers, customer and stakeholder representatives, and sometimes project sponsors and venture capitalists, but they often don't talk with each other enough.

Teamwork within a team: Teamwork within the team, e.g., work between the project manager and task leaders for major chunks of work at the high level, is again sporadic and unpredictable. Often we see individuals such as electrical engineers and software designers working relatively independently, and the team often splinters into small groupings.

Patience: A substantial amount of patience and tolerance is needed in the system so that people are able to work out differences for the good of the order.

Leadership: Sometimes leadership simply has to drive the process to work through brute organizational force.

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