InterJournal Complex Systems, 951
Status: Accepted
Manuscript Number: [951]
Submission Date: 2004
Complexity in the engineering of the Air and Space Operations Centers: Enterprise Engineering
Author(s): Douglas O. Norman

Subject(s): CX.6



This paper discusses the observations, implications, and actions taken in the formulation and evolution of the United States' Air & Space Operations Centers by those responsible for its engineering. We've come to understand that the Air & Space Operations Centers (AOCs) are complex systems which have more in common with enterprises than with simple systems. In this context enterprise doesn’t mean “big organization,” and complex doesn’t mean “difficult to understand.” In the face of monumental development failures, today’s engineers with responsibility to engineer for, or fit into, an enterprise are struggling to scale-up their traditional system engineering approaches to deal with the Enterprise. Poorly understood and unable to be specified, the notion of the enterprise and the implications for its engineering are actually causing yet more failures. An enterprise is a complex system [Liles 95; Norman 03; Kuras 03] which requires a different way to think and to act in order to engineer it successfully; and it’s not through our traditional Systems Engineering methodologies. To paraphrase Holland [95]: with a careful configuration management plan, detailed understanding of requirements, and well-crafted contracts in place, we can expect complex systems to do pretty much as they damn well please. This is not the environment to apply traditional systems engineering. Rooted in linear systems theory and requiring detail and stability, traditional systems engineering can not come to grips with the non-linearity and continuous change which characterizes Enterprises; and things promise to get more, not less, complex. The world is undergoing substantive, fundamental changes as it moves from an industrial age (focusing on engineering issues of higher scales – repeatability, manufacturability, justifiability) to an information age (focusing on engineering issues of connectivity, discovery, emergence, fitness, evolution, innovation, adaptation, and specialization). We interpret Complex Systems Theory and apply it to the AOC as the fundamental approach to Enterprise Engineering.

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