Medical Device Multi-Disciplinary Teams Outperform Solo Efforts
Goodwill, cooperation, and camaraderie are more than holiday spirits around the StarFish office these days. Working in isolation is not an option for medical engineers. Those still confined by ideas of belonging to a unique discipline will have a hard time moving forward in an increasingly complex and fast changing environment. Developing fully functional, usable and lasting medical devices requires ongoing information sharing, knowledge transfer, continuous training and a willingness from every member of the team to work together.
That is not always easy for individuals who want to remain competitive in a technology rich society by protecting their area of expertise. Today’s product development professionals need patience, an open mind and an intrinsic sense of security in one’s own skills. Project Managers should facilitate the integration of knowledge in a product and build a team culture that makes everyone feel part of the project. Team members that feel safe in a team or work environment are more likely to devote their efforts and talents and less likely to move to other projects (given opportunities).
Here are some basic suggestions for managers to create a successful, productive and long lasting project environment:
- No silly question (well almost). In a team with very specialized professionals, AKA domain experts, it is nearly impossible to understand the detailed work of others. Would you be able to quickly review the C++ code of your colleague? Perhaps, if it is well documented. Most likely, it would entail asking a few questions about the application.
- Be humble and ask for help. Whether you are feeling the project time pressure, struggling with the reality of multi-tasking, or working on a file that you have limited knowledge in, just ask for help. Asking a friendly colleague to you give you some assistance gets easier over time.
- Be ready to give advice. If you are in a multi-disciplinary team designing some specialized pieces of technology, you will have some unique skills, talent or knowledge. Share them openly for the cause of project success. Everyone looks good in a well delivered project.
- Treat others the way you want to be treated. A universal truth that is worthwhile remembering when times are difficult. Courteous emails and simple gestures of kindness help create a positive work environment where respect rules.
- Solve problems rather than blame. It is human nature to point the fingers at others when issues arise. Who-did-what may be the natural instinct, but is it constructive? It’s time to move to a no-blame team culture where everyone feels more relaxed about making some level of misjudgment. Moving to problem solving is particularly apt for engineers well trained in that very skill.
The universal truth of Aristotle – the whole is greater than the sum of parts – is more relevant than ever in medical device development. Even the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (US Department of Commerce) advocates such approach:
“In order to create cutting-edge technology, collaboration must take place, not only within an organization, but across research institutions and private industries. Accelerating the flow of knowledge between university research institutions and private industry, connecting university faculty and students to potential industry partners, mixing entrepreneurial mentors and investors are the only way forward in our technology rich society.”
Multi-disciplinary teams lead the innovation, component integration, precision and reliability of medical device technology that we find in today’s clinical institutions. It’s time for engineers and industrial designers to embrace the reality of dynamic complex medical device multi-disciplinary teams.
StarFish Medical’s Product Development group includes Mechanical Engineers, Electrical Engineers, Software/Firmware engineers, Industrial Designers, Physicists/Engineering Physics, and a Biomedical Engineer. The Manufacturing team includes experienced Technologists and Supply Chain Professionals. Other support departments include Quality Assurance/Regulatory Affairs and the PMO Project Management Officer. DJ Kappos, Crossroads of Invention, Scientific American, October 2013, 57-61
Martine Janicki leads the PMO at Starfish Medical and holds a PhD, PEng and a PMP certification. Please visit our Medical Product Development page for more information on how Project Management plays a key role at Starfish Medical.