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Concurrent Set-Based Engineering

Page history last edited by Weston M. Binford III 12 years, 5 months ago

The session began with a discussion of Concurrent Set-based Engineering (CSBE). Read an outside summary of CSBE here.


The motivation for CSBE is pretty simple: we have a complex problem and want to explore many possible solutions with many people simultaneously. Then we want to synthesize our discoveries and designs into a cohesive solution.


Basic Workflow


1. Define the problem.

You'll want to capture the problem and share that upfront with all participants. You should include more than a standard story. Things like actions, persona, motivations, and goals make a lot of sense in giving people direction. You'll want to avoid leading questions, etc.


2. Diverge: pursue multiple designs.

Break apart into multiple teams or as individuals. Take a fixed amount of time to design the solution using the given data from step #1 above.


3. Collapse: synthesize results.

Have every design team (or individual) present their work. Combine the best parts of each design to attain a better outcome.


4. Rinse-and-repeat

It may be desirable to have multiple diverge/collapse steps with increasingly larger groups. I'll cover this below in the "Design Storm" exercise description.


Design Storm


The design storm exercise involves the basic workflow above. In it, each person gets a sheet of paper and, once the problem has been defined, 5 minutes to sketch out their design/solution. These sketches can really be any visualization that makes sense: screen mockups, text, charts, mini-models, etc.


Once this is over, we moved from individuals to three teams of six members. Each person gets 1 minute to pitch their design. After that, we took another 5 minutes to synthesize ideas a new design.


This is where the rinse-and-repeat step from the basic workflow above comes in. You keep going until you have a final design. This isn't to say that design stops, it's more about having a good sense of the next steps and moving into detailed design during production.


CSBE in Engineering


The "design storm" activity is but one application of CSBE (or CSBD where "D"is for "Design"). Ian Culling of VersionOne cited an example where CSBE was used to pursue possible technical solutions. The clear winner, then went on for further production refinement, while the loser was dropped.


In this form of CSBE it's important to follow the basic workflow with regular points of convergance and synthesis to decide when to stop one of the solution paths, share experiences, and incorporate commonalities in approach.




Try employing this technique on a story or epic in your next release or iteration. Try to use CSBE on a story which has several possible architectural outcomes.




Concurrent Set-Based Engineering and Design Storm - recorded by John Teague and produced by Weston M. Binford III.



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