Strategies for engineered outcomes

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Critical thinking

Top-down strategy







To Engineer

Case Studies

The UK Covid-19 Task Force A successful government project

The development of an optical scanner (p22) How to develop an innovative product

Figure 1 Features of an 'engineered' process

An engineered outcome results from the use of a range of control strategies that are appropriate in situations of complex uncertainty. These strategies have universal application in complex problem solving. While professional engineers will engineer the design and development of an aircraft It is not only engineers who use the strategies: scientists 'engineer' the development of a drug; businesses are 'engineered' (or 're-engineered').

The strategies form the basis of a 'engineered process' that is used to control the risk of unsatisfactory outcomes.

Figure 1 shows some features of an engineered process.

Key issues are competence, i.e. the skills of those inolved and governance, i.e. how responsibility, authority and accountabiliy are allocated.

Competence is shown as having two main components:

  • Disciplinary expertise i.e. the abilities of those involved to carry out specific tasks. It is common to require expertise from several disciplines
  • Ethos - the principles that guide the actions of the participants.

Whereas 'what you know' might be described in term of disciplinary expertise, ethos is 'how you think'.

Critical thinking may be the most important feature of an engineered process. Critical thinkers identify and use guiding principles that lead to engineered outcomes.

Deep collaboration within the project team with unswerving commitment to the project goals are also key features of an engineered process.

Closely related to commitment is the requirement that the process is underpinned by the highest levels of professional integrity.

All this needs to be inspired by collaborative leadership.

Learning to use engineered processes

See Learning for critical thinking