System Design and Management

The MIT Master's Program in Engineering and Management

2012 Systems Thinking Conference Speakers

Bruce Cameron

Lecturer, Engineering Systems, MIT

Speaker Bio

Bruce Cameron

Abstract — Connecting System Architecture to Engineering Practice

System architecture as a discipline has grown from a high art to the beginnings of encoded practice. The focus of system architecture remains on identifying the high-leverage decisions early in the design process — decisions that will determine the envelope of system performance. Over the course of the SDM program, we've been fortunate to have past SDM fellows explore how this discipline can help structure the central technical challenges and business opportunities in their fields, ranging from architecting hybrid vehicles to advertising matching algorithms. This session will cover some of the underlying principles of system architecture, which is then paired in the following session with a perspective from industry.

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Lisa Cratty

Director of Research and Development, Preclinical Systems, Becton, Dickinson and Company; SDM Alumna

Speaker Bio

Lisa Cratty

Abstract — Cross-industry Applications of the Systems Thinking Approach

Using a systems design approach can improve problem-solving across industries and companies. The belief that the "widget" or end-product determines an approach to problem-solving can lead to failure or less than optimal results. Managers in older, established companies assume they know the best approach through repeated experiences. Managers in newer, less mature businesses "don't know what they don't know." In either case, a critical variable may be omitted in the problem-solving process. The systems-thinking approach, can be applied to product development and research & development efforts in any company or industry. The systems thinking approach also aids in developing strong business relationships and effective managing of people. It offers a useful framework for improving cross-functional collaboration, the hiring process, and career management. Whatever the "widget"—whether it be a product or service—or the business function, systems thinking offers a transferable model for developing effective workflows and problem-solving.

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Ellen Ferraro

Director of the Systems Architecture, Design and Integration Directorate (SADID), Raytheon Company

Speaker Bio

Ellen Ferraro

Abstract — The Art and Science of Systems Thinking and Systems Engineering

Systems Engineering and Systems Thinking are both needed to design complex systems in dynamic environments. Reports from the Department of Defense have shown that our current systems which are developed using traditional systems engineering processes only are often too expensive and take too long to be fielded. The government needs affordable systems that can be delivered quickly, but these complex systems need to meet continually changing threats and volatile security challenges. This talk will provide examples of how the art of systems thinking and systems engineering can result in effective solutions that can be adapted to meet current and future complex needs.

Genevieve Flanagan

System Lead for Technology Development Product Verification and Validation for John Deere Power Systems; SDM Alumna

Speaker Bio

Genevieve Flanagan

Abstract — Connecting System Architecture to Engineering Practice

The applicability of my very first class in system architecture was immediately apparent to me, but reality quickly set in when I returned to my day job. In industry, very few of the core principles of system architecture are given time and resources under current processes and a number of challenges make it difficult to implement those principles. The decisions that need to be made early in the design process are heavily constrained by legacy products, which in the end have a larger impact on the system performance envelope than do the results of a value flow analysis. This session will present some of the many challenges experienced in industry when implementing the principles of system architecture and will describe what we are doing to bridge the gap.

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Heidi Grenek

Western Hemisphere Post Sale Supply Chain New Product Launch Manager, Xerox Corporation

Speaker Bio

Heidi Grenek












Pat Hale

Executive Director, MIT System Design and Management Program
Senior Lecturer, MIT Engineering Systems Division

Speaker Bio

Pat Hale












Ralph Izzo

Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Public Service Enterprise Group Incorporated

Speaker Bio

Ralph Izzo




Abstract — Electricity Generation Alternatives

For more than 100 years, the United States has built an infrastructure that reliably provides electricity to customers whenever it is needed. This infrastructure relies on generation technologies with stable, low-cost fuel supplies. As global demand for energy continues to grow, it has become increasingly important that electricity is produced in a manner that is sustainable over the long-term. Meeting future energy needs while also reducing environmental risks requires a set of solutions that include energy efficiency, renewable energy, and clean central station power — including nuclear power and environmentally responsible coal facilities.

While conventional generation and renewable technologies share trade-offs between cost and environmental impacts, energy efficiency is often forgotten as a proven, low-cost and environmentally-benign alternative resource. In order to overcome the real barriers that exist to tapping this potential, innovative approaches and supportive public policies are needed to continue to provide safe, reliable, economic and green energy for generations to come.

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Nitin Joglekar

Associate Professor of Operations and Technology Management at Boston University's School of Management, is visiting faculty at MIT's Sloan School in 2012-2013

Speaker Bio

Nitin Joglekar

Abstract — Big Data Analytics for Managing Product & Portfolio Systems

The confluence of internal and external data from emergent sources such as social networks and social media provides product and portfolio managers with big data sets. These data have the potential to identify high-leverage opportunities that range from enhancing project learning rates to changing the market positioning of new products. Yet, collection and deployment of big data in innovation contexts raises more questions than answers at many companies. Innovation teams are often faced with rising task complexity, along with dynamic and unstructured data, that confounds rapid pattern recognition. Dependency Structure Matrices (DSMs) and System Dynamics modeling, along with methods such as machine learning and Baysian updates, offer novel opportunities to improve pattern recognition and analytics. A variety of problem classes may be addressed using these techniques. For instance: How could identical types of rework be scaled down across successive design iterations, and to what extent will this scaling improve the project performance? And, when will the rate of learning rise, rather than attenuate, when personnel are shared across a portfolio of agile projects? Reliance on real-time data and analytics-based decision-making create their own delays and pathologies while teams work with imperfect information and debate inferences. Therefore, implementation of big data-driven innovation analytics ought to be accompanied by changes in style of leadership, real-time tracking of key parameters, leveraging networks of communication, and realigned organizational structures. Such changes can be best guided through systems thinking.

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Gary Mercer

Vice President and General Manager for Technology and Sciences; Chief Engineer for Engines Engineering; GE Aviation

Speaker Bio

Gary Mercer

Abstract — Generating Solutions at GE: A Business-Wide Systems Approach

General Electric (GE) is a global company with diverse holdings and a history of creating and applying technology to overcoming complex challenges. This discussion will present case studies from GE Aviation, GE Oil and Gas, and GE Energy to show how those businesses optimize their ability to solve challenging problems with a systems approach. Mr. Mercer will discuss the ways that GE leverages its Global Research Centers and businesses to meet increasing market requirements and define new product capabilities focused on customer value. A problem-solving approach must integrate technology, management, and business solutions to be competitive. This session will provide examples of how elements of system design combined with fundamental technological advancement have allowed GE to expand its customer base and continue to grow.

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Robert (Bob) Richards

Chief Executive Officer, Moon Express, Inc.

Speaker Bio

Robert Richards

Abstract — The New Race to the Moon: Old World Ideas versus New World Opportunities

The health of our home planet and the survival of our species will only be secured through the use of space resources and the expansion of Earth's economic sphere to the Moon and beyond. We must create an off-Earth economy and multi-world civilization to safeguard the long-term prospects for humanity. Between 1969 and 1972, twelve human beings walked on the Moon. After what many view as the most awesome technological and psychological achievement of the human species, they left, and have yet to return. Why? Was the effort to put human beings on the moon—however briefly—a useless waste of human ingenuity? Why did humanity abandon its first toehold on another sphere? More importantly, why should we return? What new forces and motivators are in play today that might make the story a different one than the Apollo dead end? Today there are people in many nations who have a rebirth of interest in going back to the Moon. However, while bureaucrats and legislators plan and strategize how to navigate the political minefields and conflicting national priorities that would justify the value of Moon expeditions to taxpayers, there are some new kids on the block who are not so constrained. They are the privateers—though some might call them visionaries—whose driving metric for going to the Moon is sustainable business and commerce. The announcement of the $30M Google Lunar X Prize on September 13th, 2007, has energized these contestants and catalyzed a New Race to the Moon.

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Joan Rubin

SDM Industry Co-director

Speaker Bio

Joan Rubin

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Phil Sherburne

Vice President
Enterprise Smart Solution Engineering, Cisco Systems, Inc.

Speaker Bio

Phil Sherburne

Abstract — A Journey to Solutions

Cisco has been known throughout its history as a great product company. The company has grown dramatically since its founding in 1984 — organically, acquisition and technology partnerships. One of Cisco's cultural pillars is focusing on and listening to customers. More and more as Cisco's portfolio has grown and our customer are looking to Cisco to not simply be a technology product provider but rather providing systems and solutions that address the business problems.

The talk will describe Cisco's journey from Product to Systems to Solutions. A perspective on what has worked — as well as some of the false starts — are described including process, methodology and organizational insights of the journey. As this journey is one that clearly continues today, challenges that remain and our direction forward are discussed.

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Murat Sönmez

Executive Vice President, Global Field Operations, TIBCO Software, Inc.

Speaker Bio

Murat Sönmez













Tina P. Srivastava

Deputy Technical Director, Electronic Warfare, Raytheon,
SDM Fellow 2011

Speaker Bio

Tina P. Srivastava













Zoe Finch Totten

Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Full Yield, Inc.; Consultant to the Health Care and Food Industries; Ashoka Fellow

Speaker Bio

Zoe Finch Totten

Abstract — Reinstating Food in Healthcare Systems Design

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Jessika Trancik

Assistant Professor of Engineering Systems, MIT

Speaker Bio

Jessika Trancik

Abstract — Uncovering and Explaining the Rate of Improvement in Energy

The costs and environmental impacts of energy systems are dynamic, changing dramatically over time. Given the changing performance of technologies, how should we compare energy supply options to one another? Which technologies are poised to significantly decrease greenhouse gas emissions? Can we sustain or even increase the rate of improvement in new energy technologies? I will present recent research that combines the development of novel quantitative models and theory with the analysis of large datasets to evaluate energy systems. In addition to producing new insights on the rate of technological improvement, this research has generated new guidelines for technology design.

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Conference Sponsors

MIT's System Design and Management Program wishes to thank the following for their generous support of the MIT Conference on Systems Thinking for Contemporary Challenges.

  • John Deere
  • General Electric
  • Werfen Group
  • Global Product Design
  • WBUR Boston's NPR news station
  • The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values

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All information is accurate as of the date of posting and subject to change.

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