Foundations-Understanding Cross-Functional Collaboration

Are you prepared to untap the potential of cross-functional collaboration in product design?

On this episode of Quality during Design, we pull back the curtains on the dynamics of cross-functional teams in product design. Dianna Deeney, your host and seasoned quality professional, shares her insights on navigating the complex world of cross-functional teams, addressing common misconceptions, and maximizing brainstorming through structure.

We’re about to take a deep dive into the power of diverse perspectives in shaping a holistic vision for a product. Hear about the concept of internal customers in product design, the process of gathering design inputs, and unlocking the potential of directed co-work. This episode is a must-listen for anyone aiming for cross-functional co-work for design inputs.

During concept development, our goal as a product designer is to give our cross-functional team opportunities to talk together and with us so that we can gather design inputs. That's really what we want are the design inputs against which we can create a great design.

If we approach collaboration:

  • in a structured way,
  • with questions already formed,
  • and a way to communicate and facilitate a meeting with design inputs as the goal,

we're going to have more success with getting the design inputs that we need, and we'll have a more successful design because of that.


We're collecting our design inputs with our cross-functional team in a collaborative co-work meeting.

  • Work toward a common goal, something that is not so big as the project goal, but something smaller and more focused that can be achievable within one working session.
  • Focus on the user. We're designing and developing something for them, for them to be able to use it.
  • Have a starting point. We don't just show up with a cross-functional collaboration meeting with nothing. We do want to do some homework and not show up empty-handed.
  • Follow a "roadmap" that includes a general direction that we're taking, the group prompted questions, scenarios within which groups can be creative, etc...

How can we do this? With quality tools...Quality during Design.


Below are some articles about cross-functional team dynamics and ways to manage and build them up for success. I promised I would like to these in the podcast, so here they are!

75% of Cross-Functional Teams Are Dysfunctional by Benham Trabezi. He proposes a Portfolio Governance Team which uses end-to-end accountable leaders for each function and for the project.

Solver Teams — Hyper Agile & Well Oiled Execution by Ajay Shrivastava. He takes a perspective from a software developer role and recommends a Solver Team approach where every team member is accountable together and they each lead their respective stages of development.

Working With Cross Functional Teams: Master Effective Collaboration in the Workplace by Vinita Bansal. She reviews four common pitfalls with cross-functional teams, but then proposes six best practices, one of which is to establish a process for the team to make decisions, up-front.

Brainstorming quotes are from:

Boyd, Drew and Jacob Goldenberg. Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity and Breakthrough Results. Simon & Schuster, 2013. 

Schirr, Gary. “Flawed Tools; The Efficacy of Group Research Methods to Generate Customer Ideas.” Journal of Product Innovation Management, vol. 292012. 


Collaborative risk management quote from:

Lindholm, C. and M. Host, "Risk identification by physicians and developers - differences investigated in a controlled experiment," 2009 ICSE Workshop on Software Engineering in Health Care, Vancouver, BC, Canada, 2009, pp. 53-61, doi: 10.1109/SEHC.2009.5069606. 

“Involving multiple roles, for example users and developers in the risk identification process, will result in a more complete set of identified risks than if only one role is included in the process.” 

Did you find an idea, help, or inspiration? Then please share:

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