reading: Integrating Program Management and Systems Engineering

I'm currently reading Integrating Program Management and Systems Engineering by Eric Rebentisch,'s June book club selection

Earlier this month, I posted some thoughts on this book in a thread

The author notes that "both program management and systems engineering disciplines contribute critical benefits to the program, but can often work at cross purposes" (2). Working with the key professional organizations (INCOSE for systems engineering; PMI for project/program management), Rebentisch's research is aimed at improving integration and program results. The increasing complexity and specialization in program efforts means that a positive effort must be made to "effectively align [the] work practices" of program managers and chief systems engineers (11). 

One of the case studies that stood out to me was the Big Dig,  and after reading this section, I discussed this project with a work colleague who recently lived in the Boston area (who, in fact, had a reasonable and longer-term take on the costs and benefits). But, working in an organization that's starting a strategic planning effort, it certainly gave me pause, as I noted in my thread comment: "Success related to engineering program measurement is often very narrowly defined in terms of cost and schedule performance, and this can be to the detriment of delivered value" (37).  For the Big Dig, "perceptions started to solidify during the development and implementation periods when cost and schedule were about the only solid, trackable metric" (38). Many scope benefits (traffic capacity increases; property value increases owing to the increased road capacity) came after the public perceptions were set. But, as the author notes, there was a limit on available metrics early in the project. 

Another interesting case study that the author reviews is SpaceX and I see some important similarities (and, frankly, differences) between SpaceX and the engineering program that I worked in earlier in my life, the naval nuclear propulsion program. In terms of similarities:

-Focus on simplicity of design
-"Using operational systems as test beds to improve the product, and develop new technologies" (5) (like NR's use of prototypes, beginning with Mark I/S1W)

For SpaceX, Rebentisch also notes the human elements to success:  The use of colocation and very high levels of teamwork that contribute to SpaceX's outstanding record. 

More posts to come as I work through this book....

No Comments

Add a Comment