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Fix Systems Engineering!

Updated: Dec 23, 2022

Fix Systems Engineering! (by Pat Hillberg)

Decomposing problems into small manageable pieces inevitably leads to dysfunction, which in turn leads to either scandalous products, or a failure to innovate. Our Systems Engineering tools are not capable of modeling the economic and cultural aspects of the organizations responsible for the products -- we need Systems Thinking.

In class, and at a minimum, a Systems Thinking conversation must make reference to Personal Mastery, Mental Models, Shared Vision, Team Learning, and Reinforcing and Balancing Feedback loops, as described in Peter Senge's book The Fifth Discipline. Systems Engineering should not be confused with Systems Thinking.

Also see these articles in My-Writing:

  • For Better Products, We Need Better Cultures (on the GM Ignition Switch recall)

  • Complexity Beyond Imagination (on the Boeing 737 Max Groundings)

Decomposition Leads to Dysfunction

How do we fix Systems Engineering? (by Mike Griffin)

Dr. Michael Griffin was Nasa administrator, Undersecretary of Defense in Research in Engineering, and had a long history in the US Space program. The following is from a speech given in 2010 and is assigned reading for the course. A video of Dr. Griffin's speech is below.

How Do We Fix System Engineering
Download PDF • 115KB

In the following video (optional for the course) Griffin gives this as a talk at the Stevens Institute of Technology. (It runs a little under an hour.)

2 opmerkingen

Patrick Hillberg
Patrick Hillberg
04 jun. 2021

Just read this in the HBR, about the role that corporate boards might play:

What Corporate Boards Can Learn from Boeing’s Mistakes (


Masoumeh Salimi
Masoumeh Salimi
22 mrt. 2021

I learned a lot from this lecture, thanks! I would like to add:

According to Heraclitus; “the only thing that is constant is change”. This is indeed true in complex environments. So in Agile deliveries, Teams should do practices that allow a knowledge-discovery process and help them take corrective actions as they recognized requirements and technology needs. This implies that teams need to embrace change and make it a fundamental part of the process rather than seeing it as an external source that needs to be opposed (Measey et al., 2015).

When you are finished changing, you are finished”. – Benjamin Franklin

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