Systems Adaptability Working Group

Working Group Purpose & Mission


Over the past 20 years, with many researchers’ efforts, System Adaptability research results have been converging, becoming more mature, and being more often used in Systems Engineering especially in system trade studies. The basic result summary is available in SEBoK ( ).

However, many needs from other disciplines to address adaptability in their contexts are not being met due to a universal desire to have adaptable system designs. This problem exists in many working groups in their attempts to make systems adaptable (to changes) and more sustainable.

The INCOSE System Adaptability Working Group (AdaptWG) will operate to help address the needs for adaptable systems and related issues from other disciplines of Systems Engineering.  Applicable topic areas include adaptability usages in risk management (Risk Management workgroup) and procurement (PM-SE workgroup), uncertain requirement captures in agile process (Agile workgroup), adaptable career development (social science effort), extended service lives (sustainability effort), and in fundamental or core theory for Systems Engineering (SE Fundamentals workstream in FuSE). 

As summarized in the SEBoK, adaptability is related with several other concepts which are not the same as adaptability.  For example, flexible design (largely developed in industrial engineering) often requires up-front investment and justification of redundant designs, while system adaptability factor potential changes into current design choices for reduction of unnecessarily redundant designs.  Resilience focuses on reactions triggered by adverse events ( ) while adaptability focuses on solutions for changes caused by either adversarial or beneficial events.  Reuses sometimes help adaptability which however has its clear quantification for tradeoffs without high upfront investment.

Transformation Enablers

TechOps Domain




Haifeng Zhu


James Martin


The INCOSE System Adaptability Working Group (AdaptWG) addresses one of the major problems in systems engineering: significant cost overruns, follow-up costs and schedule delays due to inferior design in early stages, such as architecture design stage that decides 70% of lifecycle cost (statistically speaking).


The workgroup was motivated by demands of capturing uncertain requirements and missions formally throughout the lifecycle and factor that in system engineering decisions, found out through discussions from many other workgroup leaders.  Better adaptability is also desirable from stakeholder point of view during procurement, as it means less subsequent follow-up cost.   


Develop useful products that will help INCOSE members and their organizations perform systems engineering better based on knowledge of system adaptability.


We work on:

  • Address the needs from other Systems Engineering disciplines and fill these gaps together with related working groups in INCOSE.
  • Deliver the guidance and templates on handling adaptability issues in these different disciplines through SEBoK, SE handbook and ISO/IEC/IEEE 15288.
Provide tutorials on concepts and basic methods of adaptable design, and linkage with other systems engineering disciplines. 


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