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President’s Point of View
The challenge for INCOSE in attracting and retaining the next generation of systems engineers
When you look around INCOSE (including the Chesapeake Chapter) you are struck by the number of members who are in their fifties, sixties and beyond. In contrast there are relatively fewer individuals who reflect the younger generations. Part of this is a matter of demographics. Engineering was a desired option for many of us when it came to choosing a career, and there were more of us because of the spike in births following World War II. Now there are not only fewer individuals interested in engineering and science, but also fewer in the population due to declining birth rates in the United States as well as in most developed and developing nations. The recent Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) initiative is a recognition in the US that attracting students to embrace engineering and related disciplines is a national strategic imperative.
The net result of these factors is a reduced pool of young engineers who will be able and available to replace our current complement of members. It’s a succession planning issue. We are already seeing vestiges of this issue in the number of long term tenured members who are recycling through our various leadership positions within INCOSE. There are some notable exceptions, but not enough of a critical mass to provide a pipeline of viable candidates for future leadership positions. Another indicator of the problem is the difficulty in forming and sustaining INCOSE student chapters. We are still trying to crack the code on how to do this.
But perhaps the overarching issue may be traced to the differences in the values and culture among and between generations – particularly those born before 1960 and those born after 1960. Cultural differences span most organizations including those that focus on engineering such as INCOSE. A sample of the former values (taken from an overview by avalok) includes:
A sample of the latter’s values (again from avalok) includes:
One can see from these brief samples the potential for miscommunication, conflict and frustration when interacting within organizations, making decisions, and building teams among others. The different generations tend to talk past each other, have different motivations driving their actions, and rarely have the ability or inclination to translate their ideas into the language and value systems of other generations. For the most part, the INCOSE hierarchy is comprised of those born before 1960; a good portion of the rest of the organization after 1960. The potential for disconnects and logical consequences is disquieting.
When members of the younger generations have difficulty within organizations, they leave physically or psychologically. If we were to extrapolate this to INCOSE, one would predict that we might attract the younger engineers, but if disenchanted with the organization, they would leave within a couple of years. Our ability to retain these individuals rests on how well we can bridge the gaps in our cultural preferences. Translation and empathy skills will be a required skill set of leaders regardless of the generation. The more we can retain the more candidates for leadership positions within INCOSE.
INCOSE seems to have recognized that translation and empathy skills need to be a part of the INCOSE’s leadership tool kit. At the IS, a panel entitled “How to Influence Colleagues and Decision Makers” was convened to explore the very issues outlined in this article. The important message for me was that while we may come together because of our shared technical skills and support of systems engineering, the glue that will bind us over the long run will be the use of skills to build appreciation and empathy across the diverse generations of INCOSE.
Bill Ewald – INCOSE Chesapeake Chapter President
Presentation: Model-based systems engineering (MBSE) formalizes the practice of systems engineering through the use of models, and is considered by many to be critical to advancing the practice beyond traditional document based approaches to SE. This presentation highlights some recent applications of MBSE, emerging standards and other advancements, and general directions. The presentation will provide the participants with a sampling of the broad nature of MBSE and its implications on how SE is likely to change.
Speaker: Sanford Friedenthal is an INCOSE Fellow, an industry leader in model-based systems engineering (MBSE) and an independent consultant. At Lockheed Martin, he led the effort to enable Model-Based Systems Development (MBSD) and other advanced practices across the company. His experience includes the application of systems engineering throughout the system life-cycle – from conceptual design, through development and production on a broad range of systems in aerospace and defense. While a systems engineering department manager, Friedenthal was responsible for providing systems engineering people, process, and tools to the programs. Friedenthal has been a leader of the Industry Standards effort through the Object Management Group (OMG) and INCOSE to develop the Systems Modeling Language (OMG SysML™) that was adopted by the OMG in 2006. He is co-author of A Practical Guide to SysML™.
Don’t Miss next month’s Dinner/Lecture 21 August
Laying a Secure Foundation for Mobile Devices
Did you miss last month’s lecture?
Logistics of Disaster Management
Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE), an Exelon Utility, distributes electric power from substations to the consumer and distributes natural gas from the City Gate to the consumer. 1999 was a pivotal year for storm and emergency planning at BGE. While Y2K contingency planning was up and running, the 1999 Ice Storm and Hurricane Floyd struck. The Y2K Team continued their work after 2000 becoming the Business Continuity Organization and institutionalizing contingency planning throughout the Company. This lecture explains the BGE Incident Command System, how it was developed and evolved over the past 13 years. A key part of the system is the Electric Delivery Emergency Response Plan (EDERP) which was first released in 2000 and has evolved over the years in response to lessons learned. This lecture discusses lessons learned from Irene, one of the most severe events in BGE’s history, as well as Snowmageddon, the Derecho and Hurricane Sandy.
This is the monthly newsletter for INCOSE Chesapeake, a local chapter of INCOSE International. We are a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing a forum for professionals practicing the art and science of Systems Engineering in the Northern & Central Maryland & Southern Pennsylvania area.
Save the Date: 4th Annual SEP Gala Dinner, August 28 at the Engineer’s Club in Baltimore
The Chesapeake Chapter is always looking for volunteers to speak at our upcoming meetings! Please contact our 2013 Programs Director,
The Chesapeake Chapter of INCOSE is proud to recognize the following organizations for sponsoring our endeavors to expanding the understanding and appreciation of Systems Engineering in the local area:
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INCOSE Chesapeake Chapter © 2013