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Signing Out from INCOSE 2008

Well, I hate to say it, but my week here at INCOSE 2008 has come to an end. And though I must say goodbye to my INCOSE friends, I’m not headed home quite yet – first I will enjoy a few days in Amsterdam, just up the road from Utrecht.

A few final comments from this side of the pond (some of these are purposefully non-INCOSE related to keep it interesting!):

  • After hours of listening to talks about process, I have to say – systems engineering processes are heavy! There are images dancing in my head of things like a project plan circle diagram that even in a 3×3 foot printout, you have to squint to read the tasks. Or there are the matrices that don’t even come close to fitting on a page, yet they try to squeeze them in for demonstration of a concept.
  • I spoke with some systems engineers who, when I explained what Seilevel does, said things like “Really? Requirements as a job?” or “You have a business around that?” or “I never thought of them as a separate thing, they were just some other task on my project that maybe got done.” or my favorite “Why are you at a systems engineering conference then?”
  • It’s a small world. In a city of more than a million, today I ran into a fellow INCOSE member from San Antonio, TX on my way back from the Rijksmuseum.
  • Most all of the presenters like to use words on slides! Seriously, I almost think it must have been in the presentation requirements – “Must have wordy slides”. Perhaps I can suggest Beyond Bullet Points.
  • I enjoyed reconnecting with my friends from what I like to call “Seilevel Europe”, the HOOD Group (and mind you, they would and should probably call us “HOOD Group USA”). We have very similar companies, with similar methodologies, in different parts of the world. If you haven’t heard of them, I encourage you to take a look at their work.
  • Sadly, Holland just lost in the quarter finals of the Euro 2008. I say sadly because I’ve actually become quite fond of watching the “Oranje” games (or maybe just the crowds hanging outside of bars).
  • I once again was reminded that so many Americans have a tendancy to focus on just us. This is by no means a generalization though. I personally like to intermix with those from other countries, though I’m also quite guilty of speaking American and little else. Anyway, it was frustrating to listen to talks from Americans who would only quote American statistics, or American events, or American disasters. My European friends were quick to point it out for me “Oh another American talk!”. Thankfully some of the talks were very different than that though, making me much more proud.
  • We should do more peer reviews, but not for the obvious reasons. A systems engineering organization requires team members to be on peer review boards, not so much for improving the quality of the deliverables, but more importantly, to expose the engineers to more projects and ideas that they can then apply to their own projects. Brilliant, I say!
  • The field of systems engineering has many many many outstanding success stories, ranging from the Airbus 380 to the ProRail system of the Netherlands. There are lots of great lessons to be learned here that can be applied to much simpler projects. But really, how cool would it be to build a network of thousands of kilometers of rail or to put a new airplane in the air?

Anyway, in a few days, I will return home with many fond memories of the Netherlands and INCOSE 2008.

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