How to Buy a Car Like a Systems Engineer – Part 6: Conclusions

We could continue to chase our car purchase analogy to a conclusion. Our point, however, is probably made. Even the basic life decisions we make are susceptible to the benefits of the SE process. As we considered the replacement for my aging Camry we have seen several principles at work.

1. We need to begin at a high level. When we start too “low” in the process we skip alternatives and opportunities that might lead us to a solution. In this case, for example, an assumption that we should buy a car to replace the Camry would begin our thinking by truncating the analysis and denying us the opportunity to consider flying or renting a car. Given the right market/economic conditions either of those could provide a reasonable solution and assuming them away at the outset is a common mistake. (In fact, I have used both of those solutions when the conditions warranted and both worked well when the conditions were favorable for them.)

2. We should not skip the definition of behavior in favor of going straight to architecture. By keeping the architecture question focused on the “how to implement the behavior” point we can avoid allowing the architecture choices to limit our options. This leverages the power of starting at a high level and proceeding in a deliberate manner to a more and more detailed consideration of the problem and its solution.

3. It is helpful to move back and forth between the domains. Thinking in one domain can provide insight in others. By pressing forward in layers where all domains are active we build in the effects of synthetic, cross domain thinking. The domains help us to understand each other and holding them before us as we converge on a solution enriches our thinking and thereby improves the quality of our solution.

The systemic application of SE principles advancing the detail layer-by-layer to solution provides a high-confidence approach to problem solving. Hopefully it is clear why we believe that this approach is more than an engineering tool- it is a thinking discipline for use in problem solving in any compartment of our lives.

The Rest of the Series: Check back as we explore the rest of the process.

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