The Virtual Design Team: A Computational Model of Engineering Design Teams

Yan Jin, Raymond E. Levitt, Tore Christiansen, and John C. Kunz

Mathematical and computational models have been widely applied to support analysis and optimization of physical systems. In contrast, the use of computers to support analysis in the design of social systems has been very limited. The goal of the Virtual Design Team (VDT) research project is to develop computerized analysis tools to support the systematic design of organization structures for complex, project-oriented tasks. The Virtual Design Team is a computational discrete event simulation model incorporating qualitative reasoning concepts derived from artificial intelligence research. VDT explicitly incorporates information processing and communication models from organization theory that allow qualitative predictions of organizational performance. VDT’s behavior has been validated extensively for internal consistency. Its behavior also compares well with theoretical predictions about, and the observed behavior of, real project teams designing a petrochemical refinery, offshore oil systems, and power plants. In this paper we describe the theoretical basis for, and implementation of, VDT and explain how it can be used to teach future project managers about the design of organization structures.

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