A Capitol Report: INCOSE IS 2018

Photo above: Ron Kratzke (right) displays the “MetaSys Cube” with Vitech colleagues Donna Long and Mark Malinoski in front of the Vitech company booth at the INCOSE International Symposium in Washington, D.C.

The International Council of Systems Engineering (INCOSE) held their International Symposium (IS) in Washington, D.C. from July 9-12, 2018.

The venue for this year’s symposium was the Grand Hyatt Washington, with the theme of “Delivering Systems in the Age of Globalization.” As stated at the closing plenary session, this was truly an impactful meeting. Attendance at the event was over 1,000 persons, representing 25 countries through 63 chapters and with over 31,000 persons reached by social media. The technical program included: 10 panels and tutorials, four of which were invited panels on a variety of topics; over 100 papers; and 44 working group meetings. But, perhaps most important to the practicing system engineer was the release of two products by INCOSE: The Systems of Systems (SoS) Primer and the Systems Engineering Competency Framework. Both of these products are available, without charge, to INCOSE members and to Corporate Advisory Board organizations.

Tutorial sessions were held on Saturday and Sunday, and the formal technical program began on Monday morning. The opening plenary session featured a presentation by Zhang Xin Guo, PhD, EVP/CIO, from the Aviation Industry Corporation of China. His presentation, entitled, Co-Evolution of Complex Aeronautical System and Complex System Engineering, discussed the evolution and necessity for applying model-based systems engineering in complex aeronautical systems. Dr. Guo observed that the modern aircraft has evolved from an analog platform, where control surfaces were mechanically linked to the cockpit, to the glass cockpit of today where most everything is connected using a data bus and control algorithms with very few essential instruments still provided using analog methods. He went on to point out that this connectedness leads to specific design risks resulting from: unexpected interactions of systems and difficulties in integration and verification/test. As a result, the abilities of model-based systems engineering are the only way to manage the complexity and ambiguity in aircraft design.

On the second day of the symposium, Langdon Morris, Senior Partner at INNOVATIONLABS, LLC, provided a presentation entitled, The Big Shift: Innovation and Systems Engineering. This presentation was particularly interesting in that it focused on the history of innovation, the cycle time for innovations to occur, and the ever-increasing speed at which innovation is occurring all around us — exponential growth. Many of the exponential changes around us are driven by digital disruption in many sectors of the economy. Mr. Langdon argued that innovation is risky, expensive, and unpredictable. But, he maintained, the faster you fail at innovation, the more successful you are at creating value. The presentation was fascinating and I would encourage you to view it on the INCOSE YouTube channel.

On day three of the symposium, Barbara Kellerman, the James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School, provided a presentation entitled Limits on Leadership — How to Manage Them. This presentation explained how leadership is changing and the principles of effective leadership. Leadership is changing in the 21st century, she says, as a result of cultural, technology, and ideology evolution. Ms. Kellerman highlighted that contextual consciousness, awareness of a particular situation in terms of contemporary culture, technology and ideology is essential to being an effective leader today. Additionally, volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity all factor into leadership effectiveness.

On the final day of the symposium, Kristen Baldwin, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Engineering, provided a presentation on U.S. Department of Defense Systems Engineering for National Security. The presentation focused on three specific goals from the national defense strategy: building a more lethal force; strengthening alliances and attracting new partners; and reforming the department for greater performance and affordability. The presentation discussed a number of specific initiatives and objectives supporting the national defense strategy. To list a few key initiatives that I found particularly interesting: maturing engineering practices to implement modularity, agility, rapid technology refresh and innovation systems; migration to digital acquisition engineering and manufacturing practice; and applying system of systems engineering to achieve mission and capability objectives. There were many more topics discussed, and I encourage you to review the presentation on the INCOSE YouTube channel.

While I have highlighted the keynote speakers from the international symposium, there were many other speakers and papers of note throughout the event. All keynotes (along with keynotes from prior symposia) are available to everyone on the INCOSE YouTube channel. Papers from the 2018 INCOSE International Symposium will be available to all INCOSE members via the INCOSE website.

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