Helix: Developing an Understanding of Organizational Systems Engineering Effectiveness
Human Capital Development
Report Number: SERC-2019-TR-001
Publication Date: 2019-02-28
Project: Helix – Developing Effective Systems Engineers
Dr. Nicole Hutchison
Dr. Dinesh Verma
There is significant interest in DoD, as well as in Congress, in ensuring that DoD can characterize and manage its SE workforce. It is also critical to have a baseline understanding of the SE workforce to determine the impact of SERC and other DoD human capital efforts to improve the workforce. This will allow the DoD to determine how the workforce can better support the acquisition of defense systems, and to identify the specific impact of efforts to improve the SE workforce, such as recruiting and retention programs. This information will also inform the SERC on how to thoughtfully adjust its own human capital research program.
This research task aims to answer one primary research question, with three sub-questions, that have not been addressed with a significant systematic effort:
Effectiveness: How can organizations improve the effectiveness of their systems engineering?
1. Why: How does the effectiveness of the systems engineering workforce impact the overall ability of an organization to successfully deploy increasingly complex systems and solutions (i.e., to have an effective systems engineering capability)?
2. What: What critical factors, in addition to individual workforce effectiveness, are required to enable systems engineering capability? Factors include tools, practices, processes, policies, and culture. Engineering is a social activity, so the means of aggregating individual capabilities is critical.
3. How: How do the variables that impact systems engineering effectiveness need to shift to enable different systems engineering approaches? Given a specific situation, how can one evolve to a preferred operational outcome? This is not starting point independent?
In 2018, the Helix team engaged seven new organizations and added over 100 new interviewees to the dataset, bringing total participation to 464 individuals and 29 organizations, with additional consultant interviews (not specific to a given organization). With this large dataset, the qualitative analysis methods used previously are no longer adequate to keep pace. The team has stood up data mining and analysis capabilities, including natural language processing, topic modeling, and cluster analysis. These approaches highlight relationships in the data that the Helix team can then more qualitatively explore. In addition, Helix launched a survey to collect detailed data on organizational culture; systems engineering structure, governance, and methods, processes, and tools; system engineering effectiveness; and teaming. This detailed data is paired with the interview data to identify critical relationships between organizational and workforce characteristics and systems engineering effectiveness. Finally, the Helix team created web-based tools to allow individuals to self-assess based on the proficiency (knowledge, skills, abilities, behaviors, and cognition) and career path findings of Atlas (Hutchison et al., 2018).
This report reflects the ongoing analysis of data collected. Data collection is slated to be completed for Helix in June 2019.
Organizations interested in participating in Helix can use the information in Appendix I or contact the Helix team at firstname.lastname@example.org.