INCOSE Webinar: "Opportunities and Challenges of Integrating Systems Thinking into Systems Engineering" - William D Miller
Date: July 20, 2011
Time: 11:00 am EDT
Presenter(s): William D. Miller
General Webinar Details: Webinar 33
This presentation addresses the opportunities and challenges of integrating systems thinking into systems engineering. The INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook version 3.2.1 published in January 2011 cites the term systems thinking on 2 pages at a high level of abstraction, claiming The SE perspective is based on systems thinking.
Systems thinking is defined as a way of thinking about, as well as a language for describing and understanding, the forces and interrelationships that shape the behavior of systems. Although systems thinking has been around for over thirty years, it has not been embraced in systems engineering or widely accepted as a design paradigm for systems.
My initial finding of systems thinking is Systems 1: An Introduction to Systems Thinking by Draper L. Kauffman, Jr., in 1980 that was targeted to age 5 to 18 educators. Kauffman found inspiration for his work from the Learning Report of the Club of Rome titled No Limits to Learning, published in 1979, which in turn was inspired by the wider application to societal problems of Jay W. Forrester’s System Dynamics which evolved from Forrester’s earlier work in Industrial Dynamics, initially published in 1958 in the Harvard Business Review. Peter Senge published The Fifth Discipline in 1990 and followed up in 1994 with The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook.
On a parallel track were the development of Soft Systems Methodology in the 1970s and the publication of Peter Checkland’s Systems Thinking, Systems Practice in 1981 with a respectable number of publications up through Systems Thinking: Coping with 21st Century Problems by John Boardman and Brian Sauser published in 2008.
Graphical diagramming tools have evolved for systems thinking models from Forrester’s stocks& flows to Senge’s system archetypes, and John Boardman’s systemigrams.
There are also a respectable number of annual conferences on systems dynamics and systems thinking across multiple professional societies and communities of practice.
Systems engineering is still based on a reductionist model. The application of systems engineering processes and methods, based on experiences with deterministic and some stochastic systems, are inapplicable to most stochastic systems and non-deterministic systems. Successful integration of systems thinking into systems engineering requires a change to the context, and systems engineering processes and methods suitable for stochastic and non-deterministic systems.
Bill Miller, ASEP, is Executive Principal Analyst, Innovative Decisions, Inc., Vienna, VA USA, and Adjunct Faculty in the School of Systems and Enterprises, Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, NJ USA. Bill has been an INCOSE member for 18 years. He is the INCOSE Deputy Technical Director and secretary of the INCOSE Foundation Board of Directors. He served three terms as INCOSE secretary and was co-chair of the INCOSE Metrics Working Group. He is a member of the IEEE and its Communications Society and Systems Man and Cybernetics Society. Bill has 38 years technical and management experience in commercial telecommunications and government communications systems, including 20 years at Bell Labs. Bill has BS and MS degrees in electrical engineering from the Pennsylvania State University.
This presentation addresses the opportunities and challenges of integrating systems thinking into systems engineering.