Complexity in a systems engineering organization: An empirical case study
ystems Engineering development projects often fail to meet delivery expectations in terms of timescales and cost. Project plans, which set cost and deadline expectations, are produced and monitored within a reductionist paradigm, incorporating a deterministic view of cause and effect. This assumes that the cumulative activities and their corresponding durations that comprise the developed solution can be known in advance, and that monitoring and management intervention can ensure satisfactory delivery of an adequate solution, through implementation of this plan. This paper presents a case study that examines the Systems Engineering function within a Thales UK business line. The focus is the organization. The research is exploratory. It gathers evidence through participant-observation, interviews, documentation, and archival records. It considers two perspectives, a ‘traditional’ predominantly reductionist perspective, and a novel Complex Adaptive System (CAS) perspective. Evidence is analyzed in light of both perspectives to consider how each is able to explain the observations. Research that considers an organization as a CAS is predominately theoretical, rather than empirical. This paper contributes by viewing a systems engineering development organisation as a CAS, and considering the novel insights this perspective brings to the issue of satisfactory project delivery.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from the publisher via the DOI in this record.