Pitfalls to Avoid: Managing a Multidisciplinary Project

Creating a new product or prototype almost always requires a variety of specialists with different engineering backgrounds. At Rose-Hulman Ventures, we have mechanical, electrical, and software engineers equipped to handle most any task. But just having the right experts available is not enough. Success requires effective management of those experts and avoiding some common pitfalls.

  1. “It’s not my problem.” Most projects involve multiple engineering disciplines, so it can be tempting, when faced with something outside of your expertise, to leave the solution to someone else. You can avoid this by assigning one person (a project manager) overall responsibility. A project manager should ensure tasks are clearly delegated and that the best-suited individuals are assigned to each task.
  2. “I’ll just Google it.” Not all problems can be fixed using the internet. Almost always, it is far better to find an individual with real-world experience to provide a solution, rather than attempting to use the information (often incorrect) on the World Wide Web.
  3. “This is outside my skillset, but I’ve got this.” It’s often been said, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Engineers are well trained in specific areas, but may fall into the trap of applying the wrong skills to a particular problem. It is the project manager’s responsibility to ensure the best tools and most qualified personnel are assigned to any given task.
  4. “It worked when I had it.” In the design of each component of a project, it is critical to keep in mind that future overall design changes are likely. Project managers should ensure that each phase of the project is designed with potential changes in mind.

At Rose-Hulman Ventures, we’ve learned to manage multidisciplinary tasks in a way that gets the most of out the resources we have. Because we work together as a well-organized team, simple design reviews and even hallway conversations about a project can be enlightening, especially when they involve engineers who can look at a problem with fresh eyes. Thanks to good project management and a strong team of experts, our multidisciplinary projects often produce unexpected innovations, bringing superior value to our clients.