Abstract for: Systems Engineering: Have we lost our Competitive Edge? A Consideration of the Dynamics of Systems Engineering Projects

Recent media reports include several large systems engineering failures. These failures are especially alarming given that they span different sectors (i.e., shipbuilding and space systems), and are not isolated to one firm. Therefore we need to ask: Have we lost our systems engineering competitive edge? What can the systems engineering discipline do to correct the apparent discrepancies that appear to be at the root cause of these failures? A systematic framework that represents current system engineering practices and integrates different factors that impact its performance into a unified view is not currently available. We introduce some of the key concepts of this integrative framework by borrowing from the management and system dynamics literature. This framework facilitates the modeling of the systems engineering process for the purpose of understanding, assessing, and potentially improving its performance. Our framework brings together the basic mechanics (e.g., task completion, testing, scheduling, and costing) and the human elements (e.g., skills, incentives, and employee turnover) inherent in system engineering projects. We highlight major feedback processes crossing multiple stages of the process and leading to cost and budget overruns. We demonstrate how this framework can organize and connect multiple sources of failure in the systems engineering process.