A Communications-Based Technique for Interdisciplinary Design Team Management

Michael J. Safoutin, Deborah L. Thurston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Many design failures are attributable to commonly understood mechanisms, suggesting that they are not due to a real lack of expertise within an interdisciplinary design team but rather to communication errors at key decision points. We present a technique for interdisciplinary design team management which focuses on information processing and communication between team members. A cognitive model of communication-related failure mechanisms of design groups is developed. Strategies for defining and assigning subtasks among individuals or subgroups which are based on the communications model are described. A technique for evaluating the expected effectiveness of a design team configuration is presented. The cognitive model and task definition and assignment strategies are integrated into a tool which is traditionally used to evaluate only the physical design artifact itself, failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA). By determining communication failure mechanisms and how they can affect the design artifact, we are able to develop strategies which minimize their impact and an analytic tool to determine design team effectiveness. An illustrative application to the problem of design of a program for computer-assisted instruction is presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)360-372
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Engineering Management
Volume40
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

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