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 coaches, and each other if necessary.

All / group activity

09:30 – 10:30

Overview What is Systems Engineering? 

Introductory overview of the day, outline of the fundamental ideas of systems engineering, how systems thinking and systems engineering are important in the delivery of built infrastructure, and the role of technical leadership.

This session will provide an introduction to fundamental ideas:

  • Systems and systems thinking

  • Emergent properties of systems

  • Structural versus behavioural views of a system; systems state and system dynamics; representations of a system

  • Limits of complexity

It uses industrial case examples from transport, water and buildings to explore how systems engineering leaders can apply these fundamental ideas in practical examples. It also discusses infrastructure interdependencies and the broader context of the project as an intervention into infrastructure systems.


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

The Netherlands has mandated systems engineering in public infrastructure. 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. In particular it uses practical examples to extend understanding of how to:

  • Use the ‘V’ diagram through the process from clarifying purpose through to design, production, commissioning and hand-over to operations

  • Use requirements analyses, functional decomposition, verification and validation.


Dr Robin de Graaf

At least 15 mins for discussion

11:15 – 11:30


11:30 – 12:45

Systems Thinking and Leadership

This session draws on systems thinking to present ways in which to explore, articulate and structure 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.

This session will consider how situations with a high degree of complex interaction between the elements of the system and multiple conflicting viewpoints.  They are characterised by an evolving set of interacting issues, requirements and constraints that can render them adaptive, intractable, irreducible and difficult to define. 

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

The Railways and Systems Engineering


If Network Rail projects were a standalone organisation it would be the largest construction delivery entity in UK if not in Europe. We deliver over 10000 projects each year. Often, we call ourselves UK Railways’ Bob the Builder, but what we do is so much more complex than your standard Bob the Builder.

Delivering an integrated railway in the environment of increased complexity coupled with commercial pressures, is difficult at the best of times. Ethical issues, timescales, cost, societal expectations, resources, competencies, business needs, legislation, standards, appear to be conflicting energies unleashed on project teams.

From our Systems Engineering pedestal of wisdom, we throw heavy words like grenades. Things like “ALARP”, “CSM”, “un-missable milestones” “CENELEC”, “GRIP” or “PMF”, “effective” and “efficient”, “system”,  “system of systems”, “sub-system”, “federation of systems”, “UML”, “EMI”, “SIL”, “business case”, “ROGS”, “ISA”, “Interoperability”,  etc.

In the end we deliver. But does it really need to be so difficult? Is it really a black art?

There is a challenge for us, the systems engineering professionals, to think hard about not only what others need to change or do better, but also what we can, or indeed must, do to make it easier for us to understand the needs and drivers of others and fixate on delivery, delivery of an integrated railway.

To address this risk in Netwok Rail capital delivery we decided to initiate the Systems Integration  change programme. We have developed and are now embedding the Systems Integration capability for application across our projects, including processes, procedures, tools, guides and exemplar documents.

How we can do this as an industry?

Ivan Lucic and Derek Price

At least 15 mins for Q&A


Systems Engineering Leadership

This session will synthesise and extend the ideas of systems engineering and systems thinking discussed in the morning to consider how participants can lead systems engineering. It will cover:

  • Mapping and ensuring the connections across purpose, design, delivery and operations to manage emergent properties, such as user safety;

  • “Starting with the end in mind” – how to ensure purpose is disseminated to all engineers working on the project, and that there is a strong relationship between the requirements, design information and physical assets;

  • Identifying tools within the wider toolkit for systems engineering in infrastructure; and

Leadership in influencing systems engineering within the organization and across organizational boundaries.

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

Discussion of the day, final comments from the teaching team and participants, pointers to further material.