Estimating project performance through a system dynamics learning model

Thomas A Walworth, Mike Yearworth, Laura Shrieves, Hillary Sillitto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
327 Downloads (Pure)


Monitoring of the technical progression of projects is highly difficulty, especially for complex projects where the current state may be obscured by the use of traditional project metrics. Late detection of technical problems leads to high resolution costs and delayed delivery of projects. To counter this, we report on the development of a new technical metrics process designed to help ensure the on-time delivery, to both cost and schedule, of high quality products by a UK Systems Engineering Company. Published best practice suggests the necessity of using planned parameter profiles crafted to support technical metrics; but these have proven difficult to create due to the variance in project types and noise within individual project systems. This paper presents research findings relevant to the creation of a model to help set valid planned parameter profiles for a diverse range of system engineering products; and in establishing how to help project users get meaningful use out of these planned parameter profiles. We present a solution using a System Dynamics model capable of generating suitable planned parameter profiles. The final validated and verified model overlays the idea of a learning ‘S-curve’ abstraction onto a rework cycle system archetype. Once applied in System Dynamics this matched the mental models of experienced managers within the company, and triangulates with validated empirical data from within the literature. This has delivered three key benefits in practice: the development of a heuristic for understanding the work flow within projects, as a result of the interaction between a project learning system and defect discovery; the ability to produce morphologically accurate performance baselines for metrics; and an approach for enabling teams to generate benefit from the model via the use of Problem Structuring Methodology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-350
Number of pages17
JournalSystems Engineering
Issue number4
Early online date9 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sep 2016

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