RHEA’s experts have been using concurrent design for nearly two decades to accelerate the early phases of complex engineering projects such as space programmes, defence systems, factory design and luxury yachts. Now, in this blog series, they share 10 key factors that contribute to the success of the approach.

By Gwendolyn Kolfschoten, Concurrent Design Expert

Catch up with last month’s post: Part 1 – Create Shared Understanding

2: Create Team Bonds

In this post, we explain why team bonds are so important to the success of concurrent design.

Creating a team from scratch

Concurrent design is a team effort, but often a ‘team’ is assembled specifically for each study. To ensure collaboration works well, it is important that this group of experts becomes a real team. This means that developing a strong team bond is a critical success factor.

We believe that for concurrent design to work well, face-to-face meetings work best. In a face-to-face setting, informal communication and socializing is easier and spontaneous; this happens, for instance, during breaks and before and after each session. Participants get to know each other better – and faster – and are more likely to develop effective working relationships.

Getting to know each other is vital to develop ‘common ground’. When we get to know each other person to person, we are more likely to find out what we have in common and discover shared interests than when we approach each other based on ‘role’ and/or ‘rank’. Roles and ranks exist (and are necessary) to distinguish people from one another. But within a concurrent design study, we try to create an atmosphere that is as informal as possible to create space for common ground to be discovered and to develop.

Creating safety and building trust

Research shows that psychological safety is one of the most important success factors in collaboration. When people feel safe, they are more likely to share knowledge and make an effort during the sessions. Conversely, when a participant is being careful about what they say or concerned about doing something wrong, they will (unconsciously) hold back knowledge and hesitate to pick up tasks. It is therefore really important that ‘safety’ is secured early in the study.

Trust is another important foundation for effective collaboration. Trust can emerge in three different aspects: trust in the competence and expertise of others; trust in fulfilling agreements; and trust in the intentions of others, including a willingness to take each other’s needs into account and to respect each other.

Building trust is more difficult than making people feel safe, as trust develops between people over time. One follows the other – when we make people feel safe psychologically, we create a good basis for trust.

The role of the support team

In concurrent design sessions, we (the support team) address people in their role and as experts on their domain. We also document all agreements and decisions clearly in the session log, along with the actions we will take to ensure stakeholders do their part to fulfil what is required. Finally, we help the team to explore and understand the different stakes involved in the design to ensure no one is ‘ignored’.

When safety and security are covered, the foundation exists for a true team bond to develop. This bond is important to ensure that the sessions have a positive working atmosphere – and one that makes them effective. When participants feel part of a team, they are more motivated to collaborate and make an effort to solve the problem at hand. The bond that emerges creates loyalty; participants are willing to go the extra mile for the team, even if they run into obstacles.

Our tips

  • It is important for the team to get to know each other, so make it informal to create common ground
  • Ensure psychological safety and mutual respect
  • Develop trust though an open atmosphere and explicit documentation.

Find out more

Find out more about concurrent design and RHEA’s solutions.