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 6 – Three Steps to Achieve Commitment

7: Motivation and Flow

Working efficiently requires effort and hard work from everyone involved. This is particularly true of concurrent design, which works in a ‘battle rhythm’ of weekly or biweekly sessions.

This approach creates a cyclical process in which feedback and following up on tasks is fast and frequent. It also needs to be clearly organized and aligned to ensure the process is interactive, keeps a high tempo and has the effect of ‘riding a train’; once on board, you have to keep up the pace.

Together, these factors create more cohesion in the group. Participants experience ‘flow’ and are drawn into the team effort, which usually results in them having more fun and joy in the work they are doing. At the same time, the team is regularly reminded about both the challenges they face and the purpose of their hard work.

In many cases, those involved are asked to make a significant extra effort for the concurrent design study on top of their regular job. Ultimately, over time the approach does save effort, but the study phase is typically intense and focused. At RHEA, we address this by motivating participants to work for the study and to take responsibility for their tasks. Several aspects help to achieve this.

Get the best people for the job

Expertise is critical, but so is having the confidence to share that expertise with the team.

Because we need domain representatives, we do not always have a choice in who gets involved. If we do, we always choose participants who are communicative and sociable.

Emphasize the importance of the study and the participants’ roles

The importance of the study needs to be stressed – but so too does the vital role each expert plays in representing their domain.

The ‘we need you’ message is best conveyed by the project leader. It is critical to emphasize the responsibility of each expert to represent the aspects related to their domain of expertise and we always check they are mandated to take on this responsibility.

We also manage expectations, explaining that the study will require more time now in order to benefit from an integrated design later. Those involved all need to understand that participation does not just involve 4 hours per week in the sessions, but also time for preparation. Senior management also needs to be made aware of this investment and approve it before any study starts.

Focus on the goal

At the start of each study, be clear about the goal and its purpose:

  • Emphasize the overall objective of the study and its importance for the organization and its mission.
  • Show how the team will achieve the goal and illustrate why it is important that they achieve it.

Show progress

The team needs to see they are covering ground, so make sure they are regularly made aware of their achievements. Document them and revisit them often to ensure they understand the steps they took and the decisions they reached. Also highlight the problems that were solved, any risks that were resolved and all the issues that were clarified.

Create autonomy

Ask stakeholders how they can contribute, invite them to share their input and offer them guidelines, but also give them space to share their expertise and to identify creative solutions.

Our tips

  • Manage expectations – progress requires hard work.
  • Show progress – ensure the team is aware of their achievements.
  • Focus on purpose – emphasize why their contribution is important.

Find out more

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