Words of Systems Engineering Wisdom: Don’t Settle for Opinion When You Need Advice

Words of Systems Engineering Wisdom: Don’t Settle for Opinion When You Need Advice

My children are either out of college or finishing up their schooling, but they still come to me, on occasion, seeking my advice. I tell them, “My opinion is free, advice will cost you, and wisdom is really expensive.” As a result, they are very careful in choosing their words when they come to dad for his input. The systems engineering industry is not so different…there are lots of opinions out there, but advice and wisdom are not as readily obtained.

So how does advice differ from an opinion? Advice is defined as guidance or recommendations concerning prudent future action, typically given by someone regarded as knowledgeable or authoritative. Thus, an advisor is a person who gives advice, typically someone who is an expert in a particular field.

INCOSE, the International Council on Systems Engineering, is the professional society solely devoted to the promotion, application, and enhancement of the discipline and profession of systems engineering. INCOSE is considered the world’s authority on systems engineering. As the world’s authority, INCOSE senior leadership relies on the experience, advice, and wisdom of seasoned practitioners from more than 100 organizations that form its Corporate Advisory Board (CAB). Engility sits on that Board. I serve as Engility’s representative to the CAB and serve as Co-Chair. In two years, I will be the CAB Chair and sit on the INCOSE Board of Directors.

Systems Engineering & Integration Wisdom So, what kind of advice does INCOSE want? While my children come to me looking for advice on a job application or wording of their resume, INCOSE needs a different kind of advice. Although its membership is made up of thousands of very logical, practical, and well-trained systems engineers, INCOSE leverages the CAB’s wisdom not for the basics but for the elevated perspective —the strategic viewpoint gained by experience and hard-won wisdom, the kind that comes from practicing sustainable systems engineering in complex, critical, and ever-evolving environments.

  • Important systems engineering challenges facing industry and government: autonomous systems, healthcare systems, agile life cycle development, systems security, sustainability, systems engineering certification, and more.
  • Where and how to invest time and energy helping to shape INCOSE’s strategic direction: identifying and prioritizing how best to advance the discipline of systems engineering in industry, science, and academia.
  • Guidance for INCOSE’s 40+ working groups: recommendations for products that these working groups should be producing, sparking genuine collaboration on priorities.
Engility, as a member of INCOSE’s CAB, is helping to provide this advice, strategic guidance, or recommendations concerning prudent future action for INCOSE and its 17,000 members. We advise and we listen to the advice of other members, keeping our engineers and INCOSE relevant for the challenges of today and tomorrow. Proverbs states, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” INCOSE is listening.

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Posted by Dr. Don York

I am a Technical Fellow and Senior Systems Engineer at Engility. I have over 40 years of systems engineering and technical leadership experience in advanced technology systems holding a Ph.D. in Systems Engineering and both a B.E. and a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering. I am an INCOSE Certified Systems Engineering Professional and have been a member of INCOSE for over 25 years. I currently serve as the Co-Chair of and Engility’s representative to INCOSE’s Corporate Advisory Board.

As a Principal Technical Expert for System Development Metrics, I serve as an integral part of a team of subject matter experts invited to work with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to develop their government-wide Technology Readiness Assessment (TRA) Best Practice Guide, reviewing and helping to write the section on systems readiness metrics. The Guide will be published in 2019.

I have co-authored, published and presented a number of articles related to this blog. These include Mitigating Integration Risks in Complex Systems at the 28th INCOSE International Symposium (IS) in July of this year, Applying Bayesian Networks to TRL Assessments – Innovation in Systems Engineering at the 27th INCOSE IS, and Using Bayesian Networks to Validate Technology Readiness Assessments of Systems at the 15th Annual Conference on Systems Engineering Research (CSER) in March of 2017. Read more here.