Case study: Producing a Breakthrough in Achieving Agreement Among Conflicting Groups
Ivan Rosenberg
Ivan Rosenberg

$1.3B aerospace organization


Mechanical engineers at the organization had long been permitted to use whatever mechanical computer-aided design (MCAD) software package they wanted. As a result about 40% of the engineers used Package A, another 40% used Package B, and the remaining 20% used a variety of other packages.

Using multiple MCAD packages doubled or tripled the cost of purchase, maintenance, and support. For at least eight years the company had been trying, without success, to eliminate these excess costs by getting the engineers to agree on a standard MCAD package.

Now, however, there was urgent need to reach agreement. The company’s entire design function was undergoing reengineering. Because the cost was prohibitive to write interfaces for multiple MCAD systems, there was now a critical need for agreement on a single standard MCAD package to be able to have a single integrated set of design software for all the organization's projects.

Making the situation more difficult was a strong advocacy and considerable investment already made in licenses, training, and supporting systems for a variety of packages.

Lack of agreement put the entire reengineering effort and investment at risk and had a negative impact on the engineers’ productivity as they spent time on the dispute.


Frontier Associates, Inc. (FAI) was engaged to produce a solution that would be supported by all the engineers and other stakeholders, and that met the budgetary concerns of the organization and of the reengineering effort.

Using FAI's Breakthrough Process, we facilitated a 35-person group, representing all of the primary stakeholder groups, to reach consensus on a configuration that met the budgetary goals of a single primary MCAD package with a limited set of multiple smaller, specialized packages. The total time required was 18 hours, consisting of 4 meetings in 4 months. Because the participants were the prime influencers regarding this issue, everyone else at the company quickly adopted the group’s decision.


Today, over 13 years later, the issue has never resurfaced, showing that a genuine consensus was reached and the problem was truly resolved.