Middle Tier Systems Engineering

Systems Engineering

Air Force
  • The PM should leverage and incorporate best practices for system engineering. Research should be conducted to assess performers’ currency with best practices on design, manufacturing, maintenance, upgrading, and logistics.
  • New practices may be explored as the basis of a rapid acquisition activities.
  • The PM should adopt a Technical Risk Management process to identify, track, and mitigate technical risks.
  • Environment, safety, and occupational health risks must be accepted prior to exposing people, equipment, or the environment to known environment, safety, or occupational health hazards.
  • The risk acceptance authorities are the SAE for High risks, the PEO for Serious risks, and the PM for Medium and Low risks.
  • Digital engineering, modular open system architecture, software-defined capabilities, and commercial standards and interfaces are strongly encouraged and should be thoroughly assessed for all rapid acquisitions. Inclusions should be documented in the acquisition strategy.
  • Agile software development and development operations (DevOps) is required for all new initiatives unless waived by the MDA for reasons of prohibitive cost, schedule, or performance or other national security considerations. The software development strategy should be documented as part of the ASD.
MITRE Strategy Considerations

Guiding Principles for Design

  • Reuse – Someone probably solved your problem already
  • Modularity – Ensures design is responsive to new requirements
  • Simplicity – Complexity adds friction, fragility, and unpredictability.
  • Focus Priorities – Reduces wasted time and missed opportunities
  • Smallness – Large programs cost more, take longer, and do less

Design Thinking is a mindset for problem solving or “A style of thinking that combines empathy for the users and immersion in the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and a data-based experimental approach to assessing the quality of solutions.” (Liedtka and Ogilvie, 2011). Design Thinking primarily leverages techniques from the product and industrial design fields. These practices have long been used before design thinking as a term was popularized, and have recently been adopted and applied in the software, startup, strategy, pharmaceutical, and finance industries to great success.

Although there are numerous and highly popular process models for design thinking, they are consistent in that they begin with problem exploration, move into ideation of solution concepts, and include some element of prototyping and testing those solution concepts for feedback. Below is the most popular and recognizable process model from the Stanford Design School.

While the process is depicted as linear, in practice, it is often highly iterative and may require jumping across process steps depending on the circumstance of the team, problem complexity, and other variables unique to the space by which the problem exists.

  • Identify Who the Target Customers and other Stakeholders are for your Product, Service, or Offering 
    • Customers may be external to the organization (e.g. citizens, warfighters, partner Agencies) or internal to the organization (e.g. employees)
  • Find Opportunities to Explore Problem Spaces from the Customer Perspective 
    • Consider ethnographic methods to interviewing and observing customers to understand problem areas from their perspective. Remember that humans are notorious about describing their needs, but it is up to you to uncover their unstated needs.
    • Leverage tools such as personas, journey maps, and empathy maps to consolidate the results of customer research and identify insights
  • Decompose Complex Challenge Areas into Problem Statements
    • Craft problem statements to decompose different aspects of a complex challenge area. Focus on stating problems from the perspective of customers and without bias for any solutions
    • Consider the construct of “How Might We…” to craft problem statements in a manner that encourages brainstorming of new and unique solutions
  • Involve Multi-disciplinary Teams in Ideating Possible Solution Concepts
    • Leverage divergent thinking initially in brainstorming to identify many possible ides without judgement
    • Leverage convergent thinking to discuss, combine, and narrow down possible solution concepts to pursue
  • Prototype Solution Concepts to Understand What will Work and What Won’t
    • Remember that “prototypes” in design thinking are not like proofs of concept. Their purpose is to facilitate discussion and feedback from customers and stakeholders. Flowcharts, Lego structures, storyboards, and sketches can all be appropriate mediums for an initial prototype
    • Capture feedback from prototypes and incorporate learnings into future iterations of the design thinking process. You may go back to the Ideation phase or even the Problem Exploration phase as a result of prototypes. The learning process is part of design thinking

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