Home Misuse of Statistics  

Challenger Disaster


National Security Space Programs

Mythical Man–Month

Resolving Engineer–Manager Conflicts

Chief Scientist

Analytic & Gaming Sims

Complex Systems
These pages contain a sampling of the information presented in the six hour course, Advanced Engineering.   The course contains four one-hour and three half-hour modules.

The course avoids detailed calculations requiring advanced mathematics, physics, or engineering knowledge.   For this reason the course can be taken by both engineers and managers.   Despite the relatively low level of mathematics, it is likely that anyone with less than a decade of enginering experience will find the material too difficult.

This course examines three classic engineering case studies, which take one hour each:

    —   Richard Feynman's Report On The Challenger Disaster

    —   Acquisition Of National Security Space Programs

    —   The Mythical Man-Month

The course then derives lessons learned from these studies.   It's easy to interpet much of the material in these case studies as implying a failure of management.   This is definitely not the intent of this course, as frequent references to this disclaimer demonstrate.   One of the course objectives is to help engineers and managers act as a team, rather than as adversaries.   The following modules, which take half an hour each, cover this material.   Lessons learned include

    —   Narrowing The Gap Between Engineers and Managers

    —   The Role of the Chief Scientist

    —   Differences Between Analytic and Gaming Simulations

Another set of lessons learned leads to the following course session, one hour long, on

    —   Introduction to Complex Systems
0800 – 0820
Definition of System Engineering
0820 – 0930
Richard Feynman's Report On The Challenger Disaster
0930 – 1000
Acquisition of National Security Space Programs
1000 – 1030
1030 – 1100
Acquisition of National Security Space Programs (cont.)
1100 – 1130
The Mythical Man–Month
1130 – 1230
1230 – 1300
The Mythical Man–Month (cont.)
1300 – 1330
Resolving Engineer–Manager Conflicts
1330 – 1400
The Role of The Chief Scientist
1400 – 1430
1430 – 1500
Analytic Vs. Gaming Simulations
1500 – 1600
Introduction to Complex Systems
Systems Engineering is an interdisciplinary field of engineering focusing on how complex engineering projects should be designed and managed over their life cycles.

Issues such as reliability, logistics, coordination of different teams (requirement management) and different disciplines become more difficult when dealing with large, complex projects.

Systems engineering deals with work-processes and tools to manage risks in such projects, and it overlaps with both technical and human-centered disciplines such as control engineering, industrial engineering, organizational studies, and project management.
Systems Engineering is an interdisciplinary approach and means to enable the realization of successful systems.

It focuses on defining customer needs and required functionality early in the development cycle, documenting requirements, then proceeding with design synthesis and system validation while considering the complete problem:   Operations, Cost & Schedule, Training & Support, Performance, Test, Manufacturing, and Disposal.

Technique of using knowledge from various branches of engineering and science to introduce technological innovations into the planning and development stages of a system.

Systems engineering was first applied to the organization of commercial telephone systems in the 1920s and '30s.   Many systems-engineering techniques were developed during World War II in an effort to deploy military equipment more efficiently.

Postwar growth in the field was spurred by advances in electronic systems and by the development of computers and information theory.   Systems engineering usually involves incorporating new technology into complex, man-made systems, in which a change in one part affects many others.   One tool used by systems engineers is the flowchart, which shows the system in graphic form, with geometric figures representing various subsystems and arrows representing their interactions.

Other tools include mathematical models, probability theory, statistical analysis, and computer simulations.

What do these definitions have in common?   Rather than try to create a succint definition of System Engineering, I will simply list its important characteristics.

Complex engineering projects
    — Designed
    — Managed
    — Life cycles

    — Processes
    — Tools
    — Manage risks

    — Control engineering
    — Industrial engineering
    — Organizational studies
    — Project management

Complex systems
    — Commercial telephone
    — Military
    — Life cycles
    — Subsystem interactions

Planning and Development
Successful systems
    — Operations
    — Cost & Schedule
    — Training & Support
    — Performance
    — Test
    — Manufacturing
    — Disposal

    — Customer needs
    — Required functionality
    — Requirements
    — Design synthesis
    — System validation

    — Flow chart
    — Mathematical models
    — Probability theory
    — Statistical analysis
    — Computer simulation
    — Information theory