17 November 2022


Collaborative Engineering

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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.

In this new blog series, they share their insights into how you can ensure concurrent design sessions are rigorous and the outcomes are high quality.

By Gwendolyn Kolfschoten, Concurrent Design Expert

Catch up with last month’s post: Part 1 – The Role of the Facilitator

2. Use 60 eyes to check and double check

Peer reviewing is one of the most effective ways to validate the quality and rigour of results. Given that there are up to 30 experts in the room in a concurrent design session, there should be ample opportunity to take advantage of this expertise. However, using the wisdom of the crowd is not as straightforward as it sounds.

When one expert presents a solution during concurrent design, some people may listen with one ear while they work on other tasks. However, those who work on more closely related systems will usually listen with more focus. During the presentation they may ask questions and challenge the solution – or they may stay silent. If the latter, it is important to elicit whether the solution is clear, understood and deemed adequate, or whether there is another reason for the silence.

Traditional facilitation would include asking if anyone had questions or comments, or doing a ‘round robin’ exercise in which each participant is explicitly asked to give feedback on the solution that has been presented. However, when someone’s presentation has not been completely understood, experts may not bother to ask questions. Therefore, the Team Lead needs a few more tricks up their sleeve to ensure not only that everyone does understand the presentation but also that the solution does not present any key problems.

Carefully summarize the essence of the solution to verify if you, as the Team Lead, understood it correctly: “If I understand your presentation correctly you propose to…”. This may lead to a short dialogue between you (Team Lead) and the presenter.

Although you are effectively repeating the presenter’s summary, because it is being done as a dialogue, it is likely that the other experts will pay more attention and follow more easily.

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Ask the presenter what systems/domains are affected by their solution, and follow up by asking the experts in those domains for their feedback on the solution. This pinpoints the related domains more explicitly and requires those experts to reflect on the proposed solution. However, this does not give you the ‘outside’ angle.

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Call on the ‘domain responsibility’ of the other experts. Do a round robin, but ask the explicit question: “Does the proposed solution impact your domain and does this imply any risks or issues?” Or “From your domain perspective, are there any issues with the proposed solution?”

rhea group risk assessment iconAsk experts the reverse question. “How could this solution mess up your sub-system?” Or, vice versa, “Are there any impediments from your domain when implementing this solution?” These questions challenge experts to find problems with the proposed solution.

Another version of this solution is to use humour and compliment the presenter for finding a flawless solution that integrates so smoothly in the system that no-one sees any problems or concerns.

Find out more

In this series of blog posts on concurrent design, we present 10 techniques to improve rigour and quality. These offer a toolbox for concurrent design team leads to support their teams effectively in improving and testing the design. We will cover aspects such as how to handle validation when working with rough estimates, how to zoom in and focus without losing a holistic view, and how to keep the team on track and contributing positively.

Follow RHEA Group on LinkedIn to be alerted to new posts in this series.

Catch up with our previous blog series on 10 Success Factors for Collaborative Design.