Atlas: Effective Systems Engineers and Systems Engineering
Human Capital Development
Report Number: SERC‐2020‐TR‐007‐A
Publication Date: 2020-07-07
Project: Helix – Developing Effective Systems Engineers
Dr. Nicole Hutchison
Dr. Dinesh Verma
What does it mean for an individual or organization to be effective at systems engineering? This is the central question addressed by the Helix project since 2012. Atlas is intended to answer this question. “Systems engineering” as a term is used heavily in the defense and aerospace industry, but the values that the discipline can provide are critical in many industries, though terms like design, systems architecture, or product engineering may be used in lieu of systems engineering. At its core, systems engineering is an approach that enables a holistic view on engineering and design of systems – products, services, enterprises, missions – in context, taking into account the diverse needs of different types of people who can benefit from these systems. It is a way to be both systematic and systemic. If this is of value for you or your organization, then the findings and recommendations in Atlas are worth reading and discussing.
This document does not contain all of the research that led to the development of Atlas. The detailed research results and how they led to Atlas are contained in the series of Technical Reports produced between 2013 and 2020. This document distills eight years of research into an actionable framework that individuals or organizations can use, today, to assess their current systems engineering capabilities. Atlas is about ensuring that core values that can be delivered by systems engineering are consistently delivered. Atlas has two main lenses: one for individuals and one for organizations.
Atlas identifies tools individuals and organizations can use to analyze and reflect on their systems engineering capabilities that will enable them to make better decisions and investments to grow these capabilities. We suggest reviewing Atlas with the leaders of your organization as well as your system engineers and identifying ways that the findings can be used to understand systems engineering in your organization. The Helix team saw repeatedly that having awareness about current capabilities and creating open dialog about what impacts those capabilities was a critical first step to moving forward. No matter what framework you use, make sure to consider your organization’s culture. The best workforce development plan in the world will fail if it does not align with the organization’s culture.