Blog entry by kumar field29
Systems Engineering considers both the business and the technical needs of customers with the goal of providing a quality solution that meets the needs of users and other stakeholders, is fit for the intended purpose in real-world operation, and avoids or minimizes adverse unintended consequences.
The goal of all Systems Engineering activities is to manage risk, including the risk of not delivering what the customer wants and needs, the risk of late delivery, the risk of excess cost, and the risk of negative unintended consequences. One measure of utility of Systems Engineering activities is the degree to which such risk is reduced. Conversely, a measure of acceptability of absence of a System Engineering activity is the level of excess risk incurred as a result.
Transdisciplinarity is described in Wikipedia as an approach which “crosses many disciplinary boundaries to create a holistic approach.” This emphasis on a holistic approach distinguishes it from cross-disciplinary, which focuses mainly on working across multiple disciplines while allowing each discipline to apply their own methods and approaches. Systems engineering is simultaneously cross-disciplinary and transdisciplinary. (The crossdisciplinary aspect is discussed in the next section on the Integrative Approach.)
The transdisciplinary approach originated in the social sciences. It “transcends” all of the disciplines involved, and organizes the effort around common purpose, shared understanding and “learning together” in the context of real-world problems or themes. It is usable at any level, from complex to simple, from global to personal. A transdisciplinary approach is needed when the problem cannot readily be “solved” and the best that can likely be achieved is instead a “resolution.” The participants in the endeavor need to “transcend” their particular disciplinary approach to instead come to some overall useful compromise or synergistic understanding that their disciplines cannot come to on their own (even when working together in a normal integrative approach with other disciplines).
The integrative approach has long been used in systems engineering and usually involves either interdisciplinary (e.g.. integrated product teams) or multi-disciplinary (e.g.. joint technical reviews) methods. The integrative approach by itself can be adequate where the situation is not overly complex and there are smaller numbers of stakeholders potentially impacted. The integrative approach can be used when dealing with a highly precedented situation that has been encountered before and a path to the solution can be readily identified and understood (albeit there will still be many challenges along the way, technical and otherwise). The integrative approach includes the traditional multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary approaches commonly used in systems engineering practice. The transdisciplinary approach may be needed in unprecedented situations or where there is a significant degree of complexity involved.