Date of Award

Summer 2009

Access Restriction

Campus Access only Research Projects

Degree Name

Dual Degree in Master of Science & Master of Business Administration


Systems Engineering and Leadership Program

School or College

Seaver College of Science and Engineering


In February of 2009, our unit performed a Systems Engineering {SE} Self Assessment using the Air Force Systems Engineering Assessment Model (AF SEAM}. The AF SEAM consists of 190 SE best practices spanning the following ten SE Process Areas: Configuration Management, Decision Analysis, Design, Manufacturing, Project Planning, Requirements, Risk Management, Sustainment, Technical Management and Control, and Verification and Validation.

During the SE Self Assessment, we graded our unit on a pass/fail basis for each SE best practice. The SE best practices are split into Specific Practices and General Practices. The former only apply to one of the ten SE Process Areas, while the later apply to all ten SE Process Areas. The unit's score for each SE Process Area is an average of the percentage of passing Specific Practices and the percentage of passing General Practices.

Our unit received passing grades for Configuration Management, Manufacturing, and Sustainment; and failing grades for Decision Analysis, Design, Project Planning, Requirements, Risk Management, Technical Management and Control, and Verification and Validation.

In addition to grading the unit's SE based on best practices, the SE Self Assessment collected the participants' comments. This report is an analysis of these comments; the intent of this report is to capture useful comments and distill them into actionable findings.

Analysis of the SE Self Assessment uncovered 120 key findings that fall into 20 SE problems. In an attempt to hone in on the most pressing SE problems, each problem was evaluated based on the number of findings per problem, the feasibility of solving the problem, and the potential gain for solving the problem. As a result of this evaluation, the top SE problems facing our unit are as follows: inadequate communication, insufficient training, and unclear roles and responsibilities. In order to address these SE problems, this report recommends the following:

Inadequate Communication: The unit should matrix four people into the Development Squadron covering the following disciplines: Configuration Management, Information Assurance, Requirements, and Test and Evaluation. These Systems Engineers would report to the Engineering Division Chief, but they would work with the Development Squadron on a day to day basis.

Insufficient Training: The unit should pursue an aggressive training program to improve general and SE knowledge. The following courses and presentations should be developed: Unit 101 as a newcomers orientation, Intro to the Systems Engineering Plan and Intro to the Systems Test Plan to socialize these important documents, Integrated Product/Process Team (IPT) Training to improve our teaming skills, Eight Step Problem Solving Method as a Decision Analysis tool, and AF SEAM Mastery as a way to use the model to teach basic SE principles. Also, the unit leadership should encourage personnel to enroll in SE certificate and masters programs.

Unclear Roles and Responsibilities:The unit should assign a SE Process Champion to each of the ten SE Process Areas. These champions would be the focal people for improving each area. Also, a SE Process

Improvement Lead should be created. The SE Process Improvement Lead and the SE Process Area Champions would work towards the goal of achieving passing marks in the next SE Self Assessment held in February, 2010.

Note: All of the material contained in this report has been scrubbed to remove references to people, as well as project names. For example, a specific hardware intensive project is described as "hardware project" instead of its name. Other generalizations include the following: software project, technology demonstration (tech demo} project, component, contractor, and FFRDC. The reader's patience is appreciated when these sanitization efforts sometimes result in incongruent phrases.

A note on tense: This paper uses the first person tense. This is intentional. I am a member of the unit studied, and thus I stand to benefit or suffer from the consequences of any implementation suggested in this report. Exclusive use of the third person would imply a distance and impartiality that does not exist.

DavidSharp_Systems_Presentation_2009.pdf (9637 kB)
Oral Presentation