Design of Complex Engineered Systems and the Effectiveness of Organizational Networks

Bryan Still, University of Rhode Island


Cost and schedule overruns have become increasingly common in projects that set out to design and deliver complex engineered systems. Noting the well-established relationship between products and the organizations that design them, this study evaluates the effectiveness of different organizational networks at designing complex engineered systems using agent-based modeling. Specifically, it compares matrix and military staff organizational networks to random and multiscale networks, modeling design as an activity that requires organizations to create design artifacts and share information. It examines the nature of design, the role of product architecture, the nature of complexity and how it affects projects, and the characteristics that improve organizational robustness to congestion. Results indicate matrix organizations are particularly susceptible to congestion failure, while military staff and multiscale networks are more robust to congestion failure, with military staff networks having performance comparable to multiscale networks over a range of scenarios. Results further indicate simple changes to organizational behavior improve performance and robustness to congestion, with decentralization being especially beneficial. Finally, results confirm the utility of agent-based modeling for understanding the dynamics of complex systems.

Subject Area

Industrial engineering|Organization Theory|Systems science

Recommended Citation

Bryan Still, "Design of Complex Engineered Systems and the Effectiveness of Organizational Networks" (2018). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI10745927.