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: 10 Success Factors for Collaborative Design: Part 3 – Be Driven by Data

4. Assign Ownership

In this post, we explain why the success of concurrent design depends on all stakeholders being mandated experts and why everyone needs to play their part.

The need for mandated experts

In concurrent design, participants are invited as ‘mandated experts’. This means that they have expertise or experience relevant to the design challenge and are able to make decisions that are within the scope of their expertise and/or related to all or part of the project. Being ‘able’ to make decisions does not just mean they are capable, but also that they can act autonomously, having been authorized to make decisions without having to consult their department or manager.

It is important that the team is assembled carefully, bearing in mind this focus on ‘mandated experts’, and that stakeholders are asked to be present with relevant information at all sessions.

By treating its participants as experts, and calling upon their advice and contribution based on their experience and expertise, concurrent design encourages ‘ownership’. Experts are asked to share ideas about solutions, as well as their key concerns and any identified risks for the project.

Everyone must play their role

Once we have positioned the stakeholders in our concurrent design ‘arena’, they need to embrace their role. For example, a project manager must guard the scope of the project and an expert must identify key risks related to their domain. If these stakeholders do not play their part, it is the team leader’s responsibility to ‘coach’ participants in their role, which can be done by inviting them explicitly to provide the requested information.

Next, action points are assigned to stakeholders based on their responsibility or expertise. Often, it is enough to remind participants of their role or invite them to give feedback from their domain perspective. However, team leaders should look out for any stakeholders who may be shy or introverted, or feel ‘less safe’: for instance because of hierarchy or political pressure. In such cases, it can be helpful to have a splinter meeting with a smaller group, followed by a joint presentation to help to shed light on a topic and ensure it is covered in depth.

Once the team is confident, and knowledge and insights have been shared, a complete picture of the system should emerge, and key trade-offs and deliberations in the project should be clearly identified. This is done by asking stakeholders to respond and give feedback to the proposals and solutions presented, based on their experience and expertise.

When stakeholders have been sufficiently consulted throughout the study, this offers a solid foundation for making decisions in the last sessions of the study. This is when choices are made that integrate the different perspectives and stakes are weighted against the key design choices.

When the concurrent design team works using COMET™, RHEA’s software tool, the domain of expertise is explicitly assigned to an expert, who is the only person who can add and edit data about the sub-system for which they are responsible. When others want to use this data, they subscribe to the relevant parameters and get updated about changes. The owner of the data is notified and reminded that others use this data, which encourages ownership and responsibility.

Our tips

  • Treat all stakeholders as experts.
  • Have each domain represented by one stakeholder to ensure clear responsibilities.
  • Invite stakeholders to give explicit feedback to ensure the risks for their domain are identified.


Find out more

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