INCOSE UK Uses System Dynamics for Strategy Planning
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The Issue You Tackled
INCOSE is the International Council on Systems Engineering (SE) representing an interdisciplinary field that focuses on how complex projects should be designed and managed. INCOSE UK, like its counterparts in other countries, has grown strongly over recent years, as the benefits of professional systems engineering have become clear.
Although the organization had a well-written strategy document, it needed to turn this into a clear and quantified set of outcomes, and an equally clear set of actions that would lead to these outcomes.
What You Actually Did
The members of INCOSE UK’s Board had already produced a rough causal map of how they believed their organization worked – how skilled SEs were developed, why members joined, what impact their professional work had made and so on. They were interviewed to get identify what objectives they felt INCOSE UK should have, of what scale, and over what time.
They were then asked to estimate key indicators of the organization’s state and how this was developing over time. This included, for example, the number of significant projects on which SE is applied, the number of qualified practitioners, the number of organizations who adopted formal SE methods, and so on.
Lastly, they were asked to estimate the rate at which these features of the SE field in the UK could potentially develop, and what factors would bring about that progress.
Two rounds of team meetings compared and distilled these estimates into an integrated, quantified map of how the INCOSE UK ‘system’ has worked and might be developed.
The INCOSE UK system diagram, agreed by the Board, displayed a quantified picture of how the organization might develop systems engineering in the UK. This included a detailed, time-phased action plan to increase the visibility of SE, to grow demand for SE work, to encourage education and training of SE professionals, and to grow INCOSE membership and activity. Note that a working system dynamics simulation model was not regarded as necessary for INCOSE UK to have high confidence in the conclusions and recommendations of the study.
Since INCOSE is a professional membership organization, rather than a commercial firm, the project’s value will show up in the achievement of the aims included in the strategic plan, in particular in terms of visibility, impact and growth of the profession. As at end-2009, indicators of all these factors are running well ahead of expectations.
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