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Evaluation Of The Effectiveness Of Design Team Building: A 45 Minute Investment Pays Off

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.269.1 - 3.269.5

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Paper Authors

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M. Christine Miller

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Karthikeyan Subbiah

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Dale A. Wilson

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2566


Dale A. Wilson, M. Christine Miller, Karthikeyan Subbiah Tennessee Technological University


This paper discusses an experiment to determine whether team-building activities could influence the outcome of student group projects in a senior mechanical engineering machine design class. This educational experiment was an offshoot of a 3-year ongoing investigation of factors that influence the costs of new product development. The results from this preliminary investigation show that the student groups that had 45 minutes of team-building exercises turned in higher quality design projects.


Educators often assign group projects to students. The ABET Criteria 2000 states that it is important that engineering graduates have "an ability to function on multi-disciplinary teams." Industry says that it wants graduates who can function as team players. Yet, students are seldom given guidance on how to make a group effort function effectively. In the business management literature, there is a concept termed the 'nominal group.' This describes the situation where a group effort is merely the sum of the group members' individual efforts. But the real strength in groups or teamwork is the ability to develop synergy, where the total group effort is greater than the sum of its individual parts 1-3. The educational experiment described in this paper was undertaken in the spirit of seeing whether professors can use training (in the form of team- building activities) to help students obtain that desired synergy in their group projects. Since engineering professors often have difficulty finding enough class time within the semester to cover all the technical topics that they believe students require, the experiment described below involved a very modest amount of class time for group training activities (a mere 45 minutes).

This educational experiment was an offshoot of work currently being undertaken on a three-year grant funded by the National Science Foundation and the Air Force Manufacturing Technology Directorate (ManTech). The grant is focused on identifying factors which influence the costs incurred in the new product development process (nonrecurring cost, as distinct from product cost). The research team is an interdisciplinary team comprised of four university professors, two engineering and two business faculty. Three companies have agreed to be industrial partners in this study, representing three industries (airframe, automotive, and airborne electronics).

As part of the grant, the research team has been collecting information from its industrial partners regarding which factors enable or inhibit the effectiveness of cross-functional new product development teams. A key starting assumption was that product development costs might increase if the cross-functional teams utilized in concurrent engineering did not function effectively. These increased costs might manifest themselves in the form of budget overruns,

Miller, M. C., & Subbiah, K., & Wilson, D. A. (1998, June), Evaluation Of The Effectiveness Of Design Team Building: A 45 Minute Investment Pays Off Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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