Enabling Individuals

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Part 5 on Enabling Systems Engineering explores how systems engineering (SE) is enabled at three levels of an organization: the business or enterprise (hereafter usually just called "business" as a shorthand because a business is a specific type of enterprise that has sufficiently strong central authority and motivation to take steps to effectively enable SE. See Enabling Systems Engineering for more on this.), the team, and individuals. As its name implies, this knowledge area focuses on enabling individuals to perform SE. Part 3 Systems Engineering and Management describes how to perform SE once it has been enabled using the techniques described in Part 5. Ultimately, individuals perform SE tasks within a team or business. This knowledge area addresses the roles of individuals in the SE profession, how individuals are developed for and assessed in these roles, and what ethical behavior is expected of them.

To download a PDF of all of Part 5 (including this knowledge area), please click here.


Each part of the SEBoK is divided into knowledge areas (KAs), which are groupings of information with a related theme. The KAs in turn are divided into topics. This KA contains the following topics:

In the Roles and Competencies article, the allocation of SE roles and the corresponding SE competencies are discussed. Existing competency models are provided. The article on Assessing Individuals discusses how to determine the level of individual proficiency and quality of performance. Needed SE competencies should be developed in the individuals as discussed in Developing Individuals. Individuals are responsible for acting in an ethical manner as explored in Ethical Behavior.


Individuals, Teams, Businesses, and Enterprises

The ability to perform SE resides in individuals, teams, and businesses. Existing literature provides lists of SE roles and competencies (see Roles and Competencies). An expert systems engineer would possess many competencies at a high level of proficiency. No one would be highly proficient in all possible competencies, but the team and the business might collectively have the capability to perform all needed competencies at a high level of proficiency. A business performs the full range of SE roles, with individuals within the business being responsible for performing in one or more specific roles. A business may have dedicated functions to perform specific SE roles. A business may have a purposeful strategy for combining individual, team, and business abilities to execute SE on a complex activity.

Competency, Capability, Capacity, and Performance

The discussion of SE competency, capability, capacity, and performance is complex. The human aspect of competency may be considered a subset of capability. There is disagreement in the literature on whether the term competency is only for individuals or if the term competency can be used at the team, project, and enterprise levels as well. Capability includes not just human capital, but processes, machines, tools, and equipment as well. Even if an individual has an outstanding level of competency, being able to perform within a limited timeframe might stunt the results. Capacity accounts for this. The final execution and performance of SE is a function of competency, capability, and capacity. This knowledge area focuses on individual competency.

Systems Engineering Competency

Competency is built from knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes (KSAA). Certain aspects are inherent in individuals, but are subsequently developed through education, training, and experience. Traditionally, SE competencies have been developed primarily through experience. Recently, education and training has taken on a much greater role in the development of SE competencies. SE competency must be viewed through its relationship to the systems life cycle, the SE discipline, and the domain where the engineer practices SE. Competency models for SE typically include KSAAs that are both technical and "soft" (such as leadership and communications), as well as around the domains in which the SE will be practiced. A competency model typically includes a set of applicable competencies along with a scale for assessing the level of proficiency an individual possesses in each competency of the model. Those proficiency levels are often subjective and not easily measured.

Competency Models

Many organizations use SE competency models to explicitly state and actively manage the SE competencies desired in their organization. A variety of SE competency models are publicly available. More information is provided in the Roles and Competencies article.

Competency Model Purposes

Individual competency models are typically used for three purposes:

  • Recruitment and Selection – Competencies define categories for behavioral-event interviewing, increasing the validity and reliability of selection and promotion decisions.
  • Human Resources Planning and Placements – Competencies are used to identify individuals to fill specific positions and/or identify gaps in key competency areas.
  • Education, Training, and Development – Explicit competency models let employees know which competencies are valued within their organization. Curriculum and interventions can be designed around desired competencies.



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SEBoK v. 1.9.1 released 30 September 2018

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