Invited Talk at University of Twente’s CuriousU Summer School

CuriousUI was invited by the University of Twente to speak at their annual “CuriousU” summer school, a combination of “classic” academic summer school and summer festival (university adminstrators, take note, it seemed like a lot of fun!).

I spend half a day with a group of students discussing: “When Wind Farms Cause Cancer – Public Perception of Engineering Megaproject Risks”. Topics included:

  • Megaprojects and risk: Why big engineering projects are hard to get right
  • Engineering view of risk: Playing by the numbers
  • Cognitive Biases: The evolutionary heritage of a 200’000 year old brain
  • Social Movement and Social Movement Organization: Why humans take collective action, and how we are being manipulated into it
  • Psychometric risk assessment: Numbers don’t matter for how afraid we are of something
  • Discussion and workshop: Industry, Politics, Media, NGOs –Who cares about an informed, fact-based dialogue? Should we be worried? What is our responsibility as the educated elite?

You can download the extended description of the session here.

Design Society Risk SIG creates “Must Read” list

I am just back from chairing the annual meeting of the Design Society’s Special Interest Group on Risk Management Processes and Methods. We had a very productive meeting at the ICED15 conference in Milano. The main result was to use our collaborative online literature database on risk management in product development and design to create a “recommended reading” list. Target audience is researchers transitioning into our field, particular PhD students, as well as established academics developing a new interest. Particularly noteworthy was that we identified a number of “blank spots” in our database, regarding for example psychometric risk assessment practices, as well as Robust Design related aspects. We have now begun the process of closing those gaps, as well as crowning 1-2 papers in each of our categories to the “recommended reading” status. We expect to finalize the activity until our next annual meeting.

In the news: Whitepaper on Engineering System’s Take on Complexity Management Published

The Department just released a news-item on the Whitepaper I co-authored with Christian Thuesen, Pedro Parraguez Ruiz, and Joana Geraldi. Am copying the text below.

PMI Complexity Management Whitepaper
Thought Leadership Whitepaper discussing an Engineering Systems Perspective on Complexity Management

Engineering Systems group publishes whitepaper for ½ million readers in prestigious forum

The world’s largest project management organization publishes Thought Leadership Whitepaper by Engineering Systems Group.

Last year the world’s largest project management organization with more than 500,000 members, Project Management Institute (PMI), approached the Engineering Systems Group in PSM asking for a Thought Leadership Whitepaper on Engineering Project Management.

A team from Engineering Systems Group, consisting of Josef Oehmen, Christian Thuesen, Pedro Parraguez Ruiz and Joana Geraldi put together the whitepaper that gives an Engineering Systems perspective of managing complexity in engineering projects, programs and portfolios.
“The purpose of the whitepaper is to stimulate discussion both within the PMI leadership team as well as among members regarding better ways to manage complexity”, says Christian Thuesen.

He is complemented by Josef Oehmen who explains that by covering an angle relatively unexplored by PMI the group expects not only to start fruitful discussions but also to add new perspective and methodology to the large international forum.

“Current practices are driven by a “bottom up” approach of collecting what works in industry, consolidating it, and communicating it to members (in forms of standards and guidelines). What is missing is a complementary “top down” approach from an academic perspective to help uncover “blank spots” in the current portfolio of practices, and stimulate innovation in management practices by developing novel approaches. The whitepaper provides such a top-down perspective, encouraging exploration of novel approaches to manage complexity, and operationalizing them in the context of project management.”

The whitepaper was published in April and presented in May at the PMI Global Conference in London to a crowded room and was very well received by project management practitioners. PMI has published the whitepaper as a key resource on complexity on its homepage. It can be downloaded onPMI’s Website.

The whitepaper is written for practitioners and contains the following:

  • It provides an introduction to a system-oriented view of complexity,
  • It illustrates three key drivers of complexity (organizational and technical complexity as such, human behavior, and uncertainty),
  • It highlights a range of novel complexity management approaches that are researched and further developed by the Engineering Systems Group, such as Network Analysis, System Dynamics, Modularity, Antifragility and Mindfulness.

Transitioning to new faculty position at the Technical University of Denmark

DTU logo smallAfter four years at MIT, I am transitioning to a new position starting October 2013. I have accepted a tenured Associate Professor position at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). DTU is the leading technical university in Scandinavia, and one of the leading technical universities in Europe.

I will stay affiliated with MIT as a Research Affiliate, which will allow me to continue my research work as well as advise graduate students at MIT.

At DTU, I will join the Engineering Management Department, and build a research group on Engineering Systems. We will focus on the integration of systems engineering, project management and policy making to better plan, build and operate complex engineering systems, such as transportation systems, energy generation and distribution systems, or aerospace and defense systems. My teaching will focus on topics of engineering program management and systems engineering.


Feature article about my work

PM Network - June 2013

The cover story in June of PMI’s flagship magazine, PM Network, is an article on my work on Lean Management: “Cut Waste, Save Money: The Lean Enablers Equation“.

It is based on my work of applying Lean Management principles to better running large-scale engineering programs. A key resource, if you are interested in more, is my book “The Guide to Lean Enablers for Managing Engineering Programs”, which you can download as a PDF at MIT’s digital library. We also just won the 2013 Shingo Research Award for the book.

If you are interested in getting involved in our work, please visit the website of our MIT-PMI-INCOSE Lean Community.


“The Guide to Lean Enablers for Managing Engineering Programs” Receives International Recognition for Contributing to the Global Discipline of Operational Excellence

2013 Shingo Research Award
2013 Shingo Research Award

My book, the “Guide to Lean Enablers for Managing Engineering Programs“, received the 2013 Shingo Research Award! Please read the full press release below.

The Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence, part of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University, has selected “The Guide to Lean Enablers for Managing Engineering Programs” by Josef Oehmen, et al., as a recipient of the Shingo Research and Professional Publication Award.

“Receipt of the Shingo Research and Professional Publication Award signifies authors’ significant contribution to the body of knowledge surrounding operational excellence,” said Robert Miller, executive director of The Shingo Prize. “”The intent is to motivate others to learn from them.”

“The Guide to Lean Enablers for Managing Engineering Programs” is based on the findings of a one-year project executed by experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT),Project Management Institute (PMI) and the International Council on Systems Engineering(INCOSE) during 2011 and 2012. The guide identifies 43 “lean enablers” or tools that organizations can utilize within their project management efforts to increase efficiency and eliminate wasteful activities. Surveys completed by programs that implemented the tools reported improvements in cost, schedule, quality and stakeholder satisfaction.

“‘The Guide to Lean Enablers for Managing Engineering Programs’ offers careful examination of effective programs and illustrates how collaboration between program managers and systems engineers, paired with the adoption of lean enablers, contribute enormously to the success of projects,” said John A. Thomas, president of INCOSE. “We’re honored that The Shingo Prize recognizes the Guide’s use of lean thinking to remove waste and deliver value to customers.”

“What I find so compelling about the Guide is that it’s wisdom is deeply rooted in the real-world experiences of active systems engineering practitioners,” said George Rebovich, Jr., director at The MITRE Corporation. “The Guide’s best practices and lessons learned are authentic and immediately usable. It’s a must-have resource for every program manager and systems engineer.”

By “challenging” or applying for an award, authors invite a group of accomplished professionals and trained examiners from The Shingo Prize to thoroughly review their publications. The examiners select the publications they think are worthy of recognition.

“On behalf of PMI, I congratulate the MIT-PMI-INCOSE team on their receipt of the Shingo Research and Professional Publication Award for their work on ‘The Guide to Lean Enablers for Managing Engineering Programs,'” said Mark A. Langley, president and CEO of Project Management Institute. “This team clearly demonstrated the added value that can be delivered through integrated program management and systems engineering.”

The authors will receive the award during the opening social of the 25th Annual Shingo Prize International Conference held in Provo, Utah, the week of May 6-10, 2013. The opening social is the beginning of this four-day event featuring a selection of workshops, plant tours, keynote speakers and breakout sessions designed to provide ongoing knowledge, insights and experience for organizations in their pursuit of operational excellence.

About The Shingo Prize 
The Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence is named after Japanese industrial engineer, Shigeo Shingo. Dr. Shingo distinguished himself as one of the world’s thought leaders in concepts, management systems and improvement techniques that have become known as the Toyota Business System. Drawing from Dr. Shingo’s teachings, The Shingo Prize helps companies and organizations increase their efficiency and effectiveness by developing cultures that better tap the talents of their employees. It also awards and recognizes organizations that demonstrate exceptional results from applying its philosophy and recognizes authors who have contributed important insights and applications of the principles it teaches. Those interested in more information about The Shingo Prize or in registering to attend the 25th Annual International Conference may visit

Authors of “The Guide to Lean Enablers for Managing Engineering Programs” include Josef Oehmen, Bohdan Oppenheim, Deborah Secor, Eric Norman, Eric Rebentisch, Joseph Sopko, Marc Steuber, Rick Dove, Kambiz Moghaddam, Steve McNeal, Mohamed Ben-Daya, Wolf Altman and John Driessnack.

INCOSE 2012 Working Group Award

I am very pleased to report that I received the 2012 INCOSE Working Group Award as the academic co-chair of INCOSE’s Lean Systems Engineering Working Group. The award honors the collaboration I organized between MIT, INCOSE and PMI to “produce the first document which bridges Systems Engineering, Program Management and Lean” with the publication of the Guide to Lean Enablers for Managing Engineering Programs. The award was presented on January 29 at the 2013 INCOSE International Workshop in Jacksonville.

The group is now hard at work to further expand our Lean engineering program management work. We are developing a more in-depth description of the 43 main enablers, creating a set of Lean metrics to track engineering program progress and success, develop workshop and training material, and explore customization and organizational change management practices around implementing the Lean Enablers. You can stay up-to-date (and subscribe to our mailing list) at

Successful Visiting Professorship at TU Munich comes to a close

TUM Institute for Advanced Studies
TUM Institute for Advanced Studies

I spend the last three months as the TÜV Süd Foundation Visiting Professor at the Technical University of Munich. I was hosted by the Institute for Advanced Studies and the Chair for Product Development. And what fun it was (and I even got some work done…)! A big thank-you to everyone at TUM who made my stay so enjoyable and productive.

I did get to do a lot of talking (which some people claim I enjoy too much) at 14 guest lectures and research talks at various universities, conferences and companies. My personal highlights included the interaction with the TÜV Süd community, which are not only a “reliability watch dog” interested in risk management, but are also interested in the broader societal impact of technology. I was honored to be invited to speak at the prestigious lecture series “Science and Society – Meet with Excellence” at TUM, where I gave a talk on what I call “technology racism”. Nuclear energy is a good example, particularly in Germany, where politicians and interest groups can say whatever they want to further their particular ideology, without ever having to stay close to the facts. More importantly, I also talked about our role as scientists and engineers to move society a tiny bit closer to “technological enlightenment”.

My stay was also productive in terms of research papers, and I was able to get three papers published, submit three more and work on 9 drafts together with TUM PhD students. I also developed and taught a new 12-lecture graduate class, “Publishing in Engineering Journals”, which was very well received by the students.

Design Society Risk SIG shaping up nicely

A bit over a year ago, I started the Special Interest Group on Risk Management Processes and Methods at the Design Society.

The group is shaping up very nicely:

  • We created a website for the SIG to provide “one-stop-shopping” for information about the group and hosting our information resources for  academics.
  • We now have over 40 members from around the world, which is a great number one year into the game.
  • We created a shared and open literature database with over 130 key references on risk management in product design and development.
  • We are holding regular (monthly) online meetings that have developed into a great forum for presenting and discussing research ideas and research in progress

If you have any interested in risk management in the context of product design and the management of engineering programs, please join us. The focus of the group is on the academic community, but we welcome members from industry as well (if you are willing to put up with all the academics!).