Technical Report: The Development of Atlas: The Theory of Effective Systems Engineers

Report Number: Technical Report SERC-2016-TR-119

Report Name: The Development of Atlas: The Theory of Effective Systems Engineers

Publication Date: December 16, 2016

Project: Helix – Developing Effective Systems Engineers


Executive Summary

Atlas 1.0 is the culmination of over four years of research into what makes systems engineers effective. The key elements that play a role in effectiveness are identified in the figure below. The specifics defined for each of these variables are the result of in-depth research on systems engineers. Additionally, related disciplines such as classic engineering (electrical, mechanical, software, etc.) or systems-related professions are also expected to find these materials applicable with slight tailoring.


The main theme of Atlas is an Individual Systems Engineer who provides Consistent Delivery of Value is an Effective Systems Engineer. This definition hinges on Value, which is defined by the Organization in which a systems engineer is working. Value is created by working in defined positions and roles. The organization must establish the position of the systems engineer in terms of roles and responsibilities and this should align with specific levels of Proficiency – knowledge, skills, abilities – that enable a systems engineer to perform in a given position.
Both individuals and organizations may have development Initiatives; together, they generate forces – experiences, mentoring, or education and training – that impact proficiency. At the same time, personal and organizational characteristics influence the impact of forces on proficiency – positively or negatively. Both personal and organizational characteristics impact consistent delivery of value. Amidst these variables and their interactions, the challenge for the individual systems engineer and the organization is to improve the proficiency that enables consistent delivery of value to the organization.

Atlas is expected to be used in several ways: first, by individuals who wish to better understand their own proficiencies and effectiveness in the context of their organization; second, by organizations that wish to understand the current state of the effectiveness of their systems engineers; and third, by either individuals or organizations for future career planning. These use cases and recommended approaches are described within this document.
A companion document, Atlas: The Theory of Effective Systems Engineers, version 1.0, provides a streamlined version of Atlas and this document is recommended for most users.