Jim Hartung

For over 80 years, systems engineering has helped America
lead in science, technology, industry, and business.

  
Now, systems engineering can help us address our most difficult
social, economic, envronmental, and political problems.

         
Question 1

Question 1: What is systems engineering?

Answer: Systems engineering (SE) is a systematic, logical process that engineers use to develop complex products and systems. It starts with requirements definition and proceeds through design, manufacturing (or construction), and operation of a system. SE
 considers the needs of all stakeholders and uses facts and data to optimize a product or system. It seeks to balance opposing interests, conflicting objectives, and many constraints. 

Additional Information: I have adapted and simplified the SE process so it can easily be applied to address social, economic, and political problems. Figure 1 shows my (simplified) SE process. The text following the figure briefly describes the process.



Steps #1 and #2 require anyone using this process to put aside ideology, at least for a while, and focus on (1) understanding the needs and desires of all stakeholders and (2) synthesizing these needs and desires into top-level objectives. This broadens the mind and increases empathy for opposing viewpoints.

Step #3 requires creative thinking to develop a strategy that achieves all top-level objectives, at least partially. This forces one to reject ideological strategies that focus on just one or two objectives.

Steps #4 and #5 use the strategy developed in Step #3 to define a specific solution. That solution is then evaluated against the objectives and other potential solutions. This forces one to consider alternatives, address deficiencies in the chosen solution, and improve the proposed solution. Often, this leads to changing the strategy developed in step #3.

Step #6 is implemented only after a gatekeeper (such as Congress and the president) agree that the solution is ready for implementation. The gatekeeper must be different from those developing the solution, to provide a check and balance. For federal legislation, the gatekeeper is Congress and the president. 
The first five steps are repeated periodically until the gatekeeper approves implementation and after that to continuously improve the system. The number of iterations and the time between them depends on the size and complexity of the product or system being developed.
 
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