INCOSE Corporate
Directors Award
President Award
Bronze Circle Award
Silver Circle Award
Gold Circle Award

Can Systems Engineering account for a corrupt heart?

by Communications Team on August 26, 2011  •   Print This Post Print This Post   •   

I was reading a Washington Post editorial a few weeks back, dealing with the tragic events around the July 23rd train accident in China.  What got me was the line:

“the government was forced to admit that a design flaw was partly to blame for the accident, and not only a lightning strike”

Looking into this further I found another article which details more issues:

“workers on duty were inadequately trained and had failed to notice or fix the malfunction.”

What concerns me is the idea that these design flaws and training failures could be caused by “corruption accusations against high-ranking railway officials.”  To be fair China has instituted system wide safety inspections and fired the officials under suspicion of corruption. So they are getting their house in order but my point of this article is to shed light on a seldom talked about topic in systems engineering circles: How do we, as Systems Engineering professionals, address the possible malfeasance of stakeholders??

You may wonder why I even bring this up. If you take a look at one of my favorite diagrams (Figure 4-5) in the INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook Version 3.2.

Figure 4-5: Sources of RequirementsWhat I love about this diagram is how it shows the contextual nature of any systems development. Interior concerns are Project Support, Process Groups and Project Environment. But notice external to the project are the Organizational and Public/Social Environments, both having a “cultural” component.

And as Systems Engineering projects enter into more global collaborations there will be a situations where different world cultures will clash. Some cultures expect kick-backs and bribery as a matter of doing business. And what of organizations whose leadership feels getting stockholders a bigger dividend is more important the product integrity or safety.

These are hard and stressful situations for Systems Engineers to face and I won’t insult you with a glib answer. Corruption will be found in all cultures and businesses because there will always be humans that will put self before the greater good.

But I think of the late Micheal Jackson song, Man in the Mirror, where he exhorts us to start the change with our own hearts. And let the INCOSE Code of Ethics help guide you in that change:

Systems Engineers uphold and advance the integrity, honor and dignity of the engineering profession by:

  1. Being honest and impartial;
  2. Maintaining the highest levels of integrity …

 

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: