Multidisciplinary design problem solving on product development teams
Author(s)Bernstein, Joshua I. (Joshua Ian), 1974-
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Technology, Management, and Policy Program.
Thomas J. Allen.
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This investigation, conducted under the auspices of the Lean Aerospace Initiative (LAI), studied how engineers from different specialties interpret and communicate about technical design problems while working on product development teams. Data was collected on 98 cases via interviews with engineers at LAI member companies. For approximately one-third of the cases, two engineers with different backgrounds were interviewed, allowing comparisons to be made between their descriptions of the problems under study. For the remaining cases, one interview was conducted per case. The most important finding of this study was that engineers from different specialties do interpret the same problem differently. Specifically, two engineers were likely to evaluate the benefits or drawbacks of a potential solution using different sets of criteria. Thus, some design disputes were the result not of mutually exclusive needs but of a failure to recognize the different ways in which engineers were evaluating solutions to the problem. Furthermore, data collected during this study illustrated that in some cases these differences were the result of engineers addressing related, but unique problems. Therefore, a solution to one engineer's problem often created a new problem for another engineer on the team.(cont.) A second conclusion of this study was that how design tools were used had a greater impact on a team's problem solving abilities than what tool was used. In this context, design tools included objects such as real or "virtual" prototypes as well as processes like simulations and tests. The results of this investigation suggested that such tools offered their greatest benefits when they were used in a participatory fashion in which a large fraction of a team shared in their use. Additionally, the more elements of a problem's context that were captured in a design tool, the greater its utility. Under such conditions, team members were able to create a shared evaluation system to judge potential solutions to the problem they were confronting, thereby facilitating problem resolution. Based on these results, the traditional model of engineering communication derived from the information processing framework requires modification. The information processing model assumes that individuals have a shared understanding of meaning when they communicate. This study, however, suggests that such shared understandings do not exist in advance, but are instead ...
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management, Technology, Management, and Policy Program, February 2001.Includes bibliographical references (p. 197-216).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Technology, Management, and Policy Program.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Technology, Management, and Policy Program.