Do you find yourself doing back of the envelope comparisons of nutrition, cost, taste, and appearance, when trying to find a healthy, yet kid-friendly cereal (i.e. a simple trade study)? Or perhaps are you the dad who builds spreadsheets to track and rate the best car seats and strollers (i.e. decision analysis tools)? Do you schedule your family’s daily activities down to the minute yet make sure to allow that extra fifteen minutes for the unexpected yet typical Northern Virginia traffic or an unpredictable last minute tantrum as you are walking out the door because your two year old wants to wear flip flops even though it is snowing outside (i.e. building in schedule margin)? Or are you the one in charge of capturing, understanding, implementing, and verifying the satisfaction of your family’s ever-changing needs and requests for dinner, toys, clothes, etc (i.e. stakeholder requirements definition and requirement analysis with a high potential of scope creep!)? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are likely already applying some basic systems engineering principals to life!
Without even realizing it, many parents take on the role of the “”Family Systems Engineer;”” in charge of overall project planning, defining and validating requirements, identifying risks, organizing the team, and maintaining day-today operations of the “Family System.” According to the INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook, “The role of the systems engineer encompasses the entire life cycle for the system of interest. System Engineers orchestrate the development of a solution from requirements determination through operations and system retirement by assuring that domain experts are properly involved, that all advantageous opportunities are pursued and that all significant risks are identified and mitigated.” Sounds pretty analogous to the role of a parent responsible for the life cycle of the family, no? This paper explores the many similarities between parenting and systems engineering and how to take it one step further and strategically implement key fundamental Systems Engineering tools, processes, and methodology on a daily basis to better balance doing it “”all” as a parent and a systems engineer.