Abstract for: Pilot error? Managerial decision biases against concurrency as explanation for delays in new aircraft development programmes

The majority of major aircraft development programmes is very much delayed. This is not only attributable to the technical complexity of these projects. From the literature on safety and human error, we know that the majority of major incidents in dynamically complex settings, such as new aircraft development, is caused by human error. We also know that concurrency between design phases is an effective approach to facilitate team learning and therefore speed up project progress. However, human decision-making literature tells us that people become more risk-aversive in settings of high-uncertainty. Therefore, it seems plausible that in new aircraft development programmes, managers opt for less concurrency and that this choice can contribute to the overall project delay instead of preventing it. Based on system dynamics modeling, our research examines the impact of opting for less-than-normal concurrency between development stages in new aircraft development programmes, on overall project duration and costs. Our findings suggest that a greater degree of concurrency will lead to earlier starts of learning curves trajectories downstream, and to earlier feedback to upstream stages, and so lowering first-time-right quality standards actually, counter-intuitively, leads to higher quality levels in development being reached sooner, not later, with major effects on manufacturing completion schedules and aircraft sales later on.