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Collaboration Across Linked Disciplines: Skills and Roles for Integrating Systems Engineering and Program Management

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Assessment of Engineering Leadership Skills

Tagged Division

Engineering Leadership Development Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.356.1 - 26.356.12



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Paper Authors


Eric Scott Rebentisch Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Eric Rebentisch is a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he leads the Consortium for Engineering Program Excellence and numerous research projects. His research has addressed the development and management of enterprise technical competencies, including knowledge management and knowledge transfer, intellectual capital management, long-term institutional change, and the “fuzzy front end” of product development. He is co-author of the book Lean Enterprise Value, the Shingo Prize-winning “Guide to Lean Enablers for Managing Engineering Programs”, and numerous other publications. At MIT he has taught courses in research methods and Lean/Six-sigma processes. He has advised dozens of graduate student theses at MIT on a range of topics.

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Stephen Townsend Project Management Institute

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Stephen Townsend is PMI’s Director for Global Alliances & Networks, which includes responsibility for alliances with third party organizations, PMI’s Registered Education Provider Program and PMI’s Registered Consultant Program. Stephen is also accountable for PMI’s program development activities focused on change management, complexity and implementing organizational project management. Stephen has worked within PMI since 1999 in the areas of member services; chapter/community relations; business/government relations; and PMI’s global development activities.

Stephen has almost 30 years of experience in non-profit leadership and management. He has also consulted with associations on their global development and community strategies.

He is a long-term member of and volunteer within the American Society of Association Executives.

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Edivandro Carlos Conforto Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Dr. Edivandro Conforto is a Research Associate (Postdoc) at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Consortium for Engineering Program Excellence (CEPE), and Sociotechnical Systems Research Center (SSRC) in the areas of Project Management, Agile Management, Organization Agility, Agility and Improvisation Theory, Integration of Program Management and Systems Engineering. At MIT-CEPE he is responsible for coordinating and executing global research projects in these areas. He co-authored the first book published in Brazil related to Agile Project Management applied to innovative product development projects beyond the software industry. Dr. Edivandro received international awards and recognitions promoted by institutions such PMI, PMIEF, IPMA and POMS, and is author of nearly 30 scientific articles and practitioner-oriented publications. He is a regular guest speaker in Project Management Conferences in Brazil and U.S.A., and guest Professor in Executive MBAs and trainings in Brazil and Europe. He holds a Ph.D and a Master degree from University of São Paulo, EESC, EI2.

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Collaboration Across Linked Disciplines: Skills and Roles for Integrating Systems Engineering and Program ManagementAbstractIn new product development programs, systems engineers and program managers must oftenwork together closely to define the product, the program structure and objectives, and allocateand define the focus of work effort. Poor communication and lack of integration between thesetwo critical functions can often spell the difference between success and disappointment for theprogram and its stakeholders. Despite common and sometimes overlapping skills required forboth disciplines, and their respective extensive practice and process models, effective integrationand collaboration continues to elude many engineering efforts. Unfortunately, this failure ofcollaboration and integration negatively impacts program performance and outcomes.This study draws upon two large global surveys of program managers and systems engineers tobetter understand the backgrounds, training, roles, and responsibilities of program managers andsystems engineers. The analysis of the data identifies systems engineering and programmanagement capabilities that are considered critical to program success, as well as those areaswhere both roles share key responsibilities. The analysis further explores what organizations aredoing to effectively address integrated practices, processes and staff development to deliverimproved program results. This includes using standards from both domains in an integratedfashion, developing formal definitions of and targets for the integration of the two functions,developing integrated engineering program assessments, and effectively sharing responsibilityfor risk management, quality, lifecycle planning and external suppliers between the twofunctions. These practices are found to be key enablers to engineering program success, but arenot typically part of formal engineering education curricula, nor explicitly part of professionalstandards. The implications of these findings for engineering students and for their engineeringcurricula will be discussed. For systems engineering students and future engineering leaders, thishaving learned these principles and concepts may be critical to them as they prepare to enter ahighly competitive workforce. 

Rebentisch, E. S., & Townsend, S., & Conforto, E. C. (2015, June), Collaboration Across Linked Disciplines: Skills and Roles for Integrating Systems Engineering and Program Management Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23695

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