The preceding chapters have described the multitude of decisions that systems engineers must make during the life cycle of a complex new system. It was seen that many of these involve highly complex technical factors and uncertain consequences, such as incomplete requirements, immature technology, funding limitations, and other technical and programmatic issues. Two of the strategies that have been devised to aid in the decision process are the application of the systems engineering method and the structuring of the system life cycle into a series of defined phases.

Decision making comes in a variety of forms and within numerous contexts. Moreover, everyone engages in decision making almost continuously from the time they wake up to the time they fall asleep. Put simply, not every decision is the same. Nor is there a one-size-fits-all process for making decisions. Certainly, the decision regarding what you will eat for breakfast is not on par with deciding where to locate a new nuclear power plant.

Decision making is not independent of its context. In this chapter, we will explore decisions typically made by systems engineers in the development of complex systems. Thus, our decisions will tend to contain complexity in their own right. They are the hard decisions that must be made. Typically, these decisions will be made under levels of uncertainty—the systems engineer will not have all of the information needed to make an optimal decision. Even ...

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