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Information Hiding in Product Development: The Design Churn Effect


  • Whitney, Daniel
  • Eppinger, Steven D.
  • Yassine, Ali
  • Joglekar, Nitin
  • Braha, Dan


Execution of a complex product development project is facilitated through its decomposition into an interrelated set of localized development tasks. When a local task is completed, its output is integrated through an iterative cycle of system-wide integration activities. Integration is often accompanied by inadvertent information hiding due to the asynchronous information exchanges. We show that information hiding leads to persistent recurrence of problems (termed as the design churn effect) such that progress oscillates between being on schedule and falling behind. The oscillatory nature of the PD process confounds progress measurement and makes it difficult to judge whether the project is on schedule or slipping. We develop a dynamic model of work transformation to derive conditions under which churn is observed as an unintended consequence of information hiding due to local and system task decomposition. We illustrate these conditions with a case example from an automotive development project and discuss strategies to mitigate design churn.

Suggested Citation

  • Whitney, Daniel & Eppinger, Steven D. & Yassine, Ali & Joglekar, Nitin & Braha, Dan, 2002. "Information Hiding in Product Development: The Design Churn Effect," Working papers 4333-02, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  • Handle: RePEc:mit:sloanp:703

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Paul S. Adler & Avi Mandelbaum & Viên Nguyen & Elizabeth Schwerer, 1995. "From Project to Process Management: An Empirically-Based Framework for Analyzing Product Development Time," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 41(3), pages 458-484, March.
    2. Robert P. Smith & Steven D. Eppinger, 1997. "Identifying Controlling Features of Engineering Design Iteration," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 43(3), pages 276-293, March.
    3. Stefan Thomke & David E. Bell, 2001. "Sequential Testing in Product Development," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 47(2), pages 308-323, February.
    4. Viswanathan Krishnan & Steven D. Eppinger & Daniel E. Whitney, 1997. "A Model-Based Framework to Overlap Product Development Activities," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 43(4), pages 437-451, April.
    5. Nitindra R. Joglekar & Ali A. Yassine & Steven D. Eppinger & Daniel E. Whitney, 2001. "Performance of Coupled Product Development Activities with a Deadline," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 47(12), pages 1605-1620, December.
    6. Hau L. Lee & V. Padmanabhan & Seungjin Whang, 1997. "Information Distortion in a Supply Chain: The Bullwhip Effect," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 43(4), pages 546-558, April.
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