Design Structure Matrix

Design Structure Matrix Methods for Project Management

A Design Structure Matrix (DSM) is a two-dimensional matrix representation of the structural or functional interrelationships of objects, tasks or teams. DSM focuses on dependencies between the elements that comprise a system or a process in terms of their interactions, and identifies input and output relationships. It provides a visual representation of the interdependencies between the elements to enhance stakeholder communication.

The DSM can be analyzed for optimization through clustering or partitioning and tearing methods. For example, improvements can be realized by bringing dependencies closer to the diagonal and interacting elements close together, or by sequencing steps in such a manner that potential rework is minimized.

Value to PM’s

  • Reduce potential for or amount of rework and improve schedule performance
  • Effectively manage work packages that involve iteration, and relationship to innovation process
  • Identify dependencies between project tasks that are not visible using CPM methods
  • Validate critical execution assumptions
  • Tools for managing projects with incomplete information
  • Visual communication tool for team and other stakeholders

Currently (2015)

  • Illustrations with two case studies were developed and presented in a peer-forum/workshop meetings (August & September)
  • Examples include both team and task optimization or high-iteration activity models