Synopsis and Learning Outcomes


09:00 – 09:30

Arrival & Welcome

General introductions, overview of the day and housekeeping.  Ice-breaker activity. A chance for attendees to become acquainted with the session presenters and leadership coaches, and each other if necessary.

All / group activity

09:30 – 10:30

Overview What is Systems Engineering? 

This session reviews foundational ideas of systems engineering and shows how they can be used to analyse a technical or sociotechnical system and its context.

This session uses examples from water and rail to introduce basic ideas:


  • Axioms of systems thinking
  • Systems engineering in policy development, project delivery and the operation of infrastructure systems.
  • The project as an intervention into infrastructure systems
  • The ‘V’ diagram, requirements analyses and functional decomposition, emergent properties
  • Structural versus behavioural views of a system; systems state and system dynamics; representations of a system
  • Infrastructure interdependencies
  • Limits of complexity


It will also introduce an exemplar problem, which will be discussed through the day. The learning outcomes are:

  1. 1.       Fluency in the general ideas of systems thinking and systems engineering
  2. 2.       Practical tools with which to use them
  3. 3.       Ability to analyse the systemic issues in a problem

Presentation: Prof Jennifer Whyte; Dr Robin de Graaf and Dr Neil Carhart

General questions and at least 15 mins for at table discussion of pre-material /introduction with Professors David Fisk and Patrick Godfrey as mentors/ coaches

10:30 – 11:15

Systems Engineering in Practice in the Netherlands

This session introduces the experience of what works and what doesn’t work gained through research on 20 years of use of Systems Engineering in the Infrastructure sector in the Netherlands. This session introduces basic ideas:


Presentation: Dr Robin de Graaf

At least 15 mins for discussion

11:15 – 11:30


11:30 – 12:45

Problem Structuring Methods

Led through in group discussions of a case (which may relate to policy, project delivery or operating infrastructure systems, depending on participant interests), this session will consider how situations with a high degree of complex interaction between the elements of the system and multiple conflicting viewpoints have been described as Wicked Problems.  They are characterised by an evolving set of interacting issues, requirements and constraints that can render them adaptive, intractable, irreducible and difficult to define.  These types of problems require substantially different approaches to those that are deterministic, well-bounded in time and space, and involve agreed aims and familiar processes (or Tame Problems).  The challenges of infrastructure planning and delivery are increasingly ‘Wicked Problems’. 

This session draws on the systems approach to present ways in which to explore, articulate and structure such problem situations, providing the foundations on which to move forward to develop solutions.  In particular it covers:


  • Soft Systems Methodology
  • Hierarchical Process Modelling
  • Causal Loop Diagrams

Participants will be provided with the opportunity to apply elements of these to problems they are facing.

The learning outcomes are:

  1. 1.       Knowledge of the characteristics of Wicked Problems and an ability to differentiate them from Tame Problems.
  2. 2.       Ability to apply Problem Structuring Methods to own Wicked Problems.

Dr Neil Carhart

All, working at tables with Professors David Fisk and Patrick Godfrey as mentors/ coaches

12:45 – 13:30


13:30 – 14:30

Systems Engineering in Practice 

Invited presentation from industrial SE thought-leader:

  • Network Rail or HS2 on systems engineering in Rail and/or
  • Royal Academy of Engineering on SE in water

At least 15 mins for Q&A


The toolkit for systems engineering in infrastructure

“Starting with the end in mind” - Situating tools within a wider landscape of possible tools for systems engineering, at different stages of the ‘V’ diagram and the new challenges that arise as a result of innovation in complex systems.

Professor Whyte

Group exercise, working at tables with Professors David Fisk and Patrick Godfrey as mentors/ coaches

15:30 – 15:45


15:45 – 16:45

Group feedback

Group presentations on the application of systems engineering to the given case, and translating that into practice in their roles.



Wrap up and Close

Pointers to further material; INCOSE; research and MSc.s, etc.