Exploring lessons learned from past activities forms the foundation for making improvements in future activities. Understanding the reasons why some approaches may work better than others under certain conditions and then further enhancing solid processes or techniques leads to continuous improvement and better performance.
This chapter explores engineering program examples to highlight challenges that often affect complex programs. Not all of the examples used formal program management and systems engineering approaches, and where relevant, that fact is highlighted. However, central to each example and its applicable lessons is the view that an integrated approach including program management and systems engineering may well have produced different outcomes.
There are no “silver bullets” or perfect solutions that work in every circumstance. The individuals working on complex programs must be adaptive and responsive to the unique characteristics of their programs and the challenges encountered throughout the program's life cycle.
Merriam‐Webster (n.d.) defines a “white elephant” as “something that requires a lot of care and money and that gives little profit or enjoyment.” Its usage within complex programs can refer to aircraft and weapons systems that have outlived their usefulness but continue to be maintained; stranded infrastructure that no longer serves any useful purpose; ...