Understanding the roles of psychological safety, team learning, and functional backgrounds for cross-functional product development teams : a convergent mixed methods study.


Cross-functional teams in new product development bring together members of different departments and functional backgrounds to improve efficiency, collaboration, and speed-to-market (Majchrzak et al., 2012; Slepian, 2013). The evidence shows that for members of multidisciplinary teams, psychological safety facilitates effective problem-solving and the opportunity for members to learn from mistakes (Edmondson, 2019; Harvey et al., 2019). Product development requires innovation and creativity, and the combination of psychological and team learning behaviors allows for team members of diverse backgrounds to work together to effectively complete the product development process (Cauwelier et al., 2016; Han et al., 2019; Kark & Carmeli, 2009; Liu & Keller, 2021).

This convergent mixed methods study focused on understanding the roles of psychological safety, team learning behaviors, and functional backgrounds on cross-functional product development teams. I collected data using the questionnaire variant of a convergent mixed methods design; the participants (n = 52) were all in the product development field with cross-functional team experience. The questionnaire contained three quantitative instruments with open-ended qualitative questions that coordinated with the construct measured in each instrument.

I present the quantitative instrument data first, then the qualitative, open-ended question data, and finally, the mixed methods integration. I found a strong correlation between psychological safety and team learning, a moderate correlation between psychological safety and functional backgrounds, and a weak to moderate relationship between team learning and functional backgrounds. I also found that the duration of time that the participants were at their companies did not significantly affect their instrument scores. In investigating the open-ended questions, I created codes and categories from the data. From the categories, 11 themes emerged that influenced the development of psychological safety, team learning, and functional background understanding for the study participants. Finally, I present the integrated data to enhance knowledge of group members’ experiences within cross-functional teams.