Case | HBS Case Collection | March 1997 (Revised March 1997)

Business Teams at Rubbermaid, Inc.

by Teresa M. Amabile and Dean Whitney

Abstract

Rubbermaid, a consumer-products company widely praised for its innovation, has instituted a company-wide experiment to stimulate innovation even further. The experiment consists of creating small cross-functional business teams within each division, with each team being responsible for the creation, management, and profitability of a particular product line. The staffing, reporting structure, and management of the business teams vary across divisions; and clear differences emerge in the performance of four highlighted teams. Specific topics include: options for staffing, structuring, and managing cross-functional business teams; the difficulty of implementing cross-functional teams in a company with a strong functional structure; the difficulty of balancing accountability and empowerment in "entrepreneurial" teams within established firms; and the impact of different management approaches on the functioning of business teams.

Keywords: Organizational Change and Adaptation; Innovation Strategy; Groups and Teams; Innovation and Management; Corporate Entrepreneurship; Consumer Products Industry; United States;

Citation:

Amabile, Teresa M., and Dean Whitney. "Business Teams at Rubbermaid, Inc." Harvard Business School Case 897-165, March 1997. (Revised March 1997.)