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Organizational Leadership And Effective Team Problem Solving Strategies In Engineering Design Projects: A Case Study

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Design Projects in Mechanical Engineering I

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.936.1 - 14.936.14



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Paper Authors

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Tony Jones United States Army

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Daisie Boettner United States Military Academy

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Anna Lambert University of Memphis

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Brian Novoselich United States Military Academy

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Stephanie Ivey

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

Organizational Leadership and Effective Team Problem Solving Strategies in Engineering Design Projects: A Case Study


This project presents a case study examination of the problem solving strategies and discourse patterns used by members of an Engineering Capstone Design Team. In our study, a multi- disciplinary team of engineering educators from two institutions worked together to collect data and analyze results over the course of the Spring 2008 semester. The findings in this study represent the perceptions of team members documented through multiple measurement instruments including surveys, personal e-mail exchanges, written responses, and both personal and videotaped interviews throughout the design process. The perceptual data presents examples of effective and ineffective team problem solving communication strategies applied to an Engineering Capstone Design project. Collectively, we believe these findings document the opportunities found in integrating theories of Organizational Leadership into engineering education as potential problem solving benchmarks and assessment of communication in our engineering design student teams. Successful communication is facilitated by having clearly understood objectives, clearly identified individual roles, and a specified system of communication. Another critical aspect of all three of the aforementioned characteristics is the alignment of each team member’s perception of the three characteristics; a concept found in Organizational Behavior theory. Another key point is that student perceptions and the requirements for the characteristics above change as the project matures. The study concludes with the finding that students’ perceptions regarding the level of communication and work distribution in a group are integral to group alignment and agreement. Several recommendations are given that instructors can implement to facilitate accurate perceptions.


As engineering educators, we understand the linkages between effective problem solving and communication strategies and overall group success. At the same time, we also acknowledge the inherent difficulties of attributing specific strategies between individual group members and the larger group’s patterns of interaction. One method of identifying characteristics of effective and ineffective team communication strategies examines theoretical and instructional research findings from the field of Organizational Leadership.

Three basic foundations for effective problem solving interaction were determined and these were used to analyze the interactions between members of a six-person design team. Within these three foundations, one consistent characteristic is the role of individual perceptions related to shared team experiences. In other words, studies of Organizational Leadership assert that each student in a design team brings varying degrees of both content knowledge and communication strategies that affect how the individual perceives the project and other team members. An instructor’s understanding of these characteristics is essential to modeling and promoting effective teams.

Jones, T., & Boettner, D., & Lambert, A., & Novoselich, B., & Ivey, S. (2009, June), Organizational Leadership And Effective Team Problem Solving Strategies In Engineering Design Projects: A Case Study Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5072

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