Problems in error correction, learning and knowledge of performance in design organizations
- Cite this article as:
- Busby, J.S. IIE Transactions (1999) 31: 49. doi:10.1023/A:1007524701621
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A study of five industrial equipment manufacturers found a number of limitations in the feedback provided to engineering designers. The error-correcting function of feedback, for example, was compromised by the poor diagnostic abilities of people in other functions, and by the superficial level of peer reviews. Delays in detecting errors also meant that designers were disinclined and had too few resources to correct them thoroughly. In terms of the learning function of feedback, post project reviews were mostly absent and delayed outcomes (like product cost) made it hard for designers to associate important design criteria with specific design decisions or practices. Designers lacked systematic knowledge of the difficulties encountered in installing, operating and maintaining their products. And there were repeated errors where design organizations had failed to embody past experience in new products. The motivational function of feedback was vitiated by the absence of objective outcome measurements and little systematic guidance to designers on effective behaviours. Designers also believed there was a strong bias towards negative (that is critical and unfavourable) feedback in their day-to-day work. Several of these problems have more general explanations: (1) a general under-estimation of the extent to which knowledge of results contributes to job satisfaction among designers; (2) a similar under-estimation of the extent to which designers are uncertain about the consequences of their decisions and their general performance; and (3) a strong current-task orientation which discourages both individual and collective investment in acquiring knowledge for future application.