January 21, 2000
Colloquium Speaker: Eberhardt Rechtin
Dr. Eberhardt Rechtin is the elder statesman of System Architecting. His seminal 1991 book, Systems Architecting - Creating & Building Complex Systems, became immensely popular, and his 1997 update The Art of Systems Architecting now has an entire appendix devoted to his succinctly brilliant collection of heuristics such as "The bitterness of poor performance remains long after the sweetness of low prices and prompt delivery are forgotten" and "Be prepared for reality to add a few interfaces of its own." His most recent book is System Architecting of Organizations - Why Eagles Can't Swim. Dr. Rechtin recently retired from the University of Southern California where he established a graduate program in System Architecture. Prior to that he served (1977-87) as CEO of the Aerospace Corporation and as Chief Engineer (1973-77) at the Hewlett-Packard Company. During 1967-73, Dr. Rechtin held a number of positions in the DOD - Assistant Secretary of Defense for Telecommunications, Principal Deputy Director DR&E and the Director of ARPA. He was the Chief Architect and Director (1958-67) of the NASA Deep Space Network and the Assistant Director (1960-67) of JPL. Dr. Rechtin is an alumnus of the California Institute of Technology and received their Distinguished Alumni Award in 1984. He is a recipient of many major awards from NASA, DOD, U.S. Navy; from professional societies - Alexander Graham Bell Award (IEEE) and Robert H. Goddard Astronautics Award (AIAA) and from the Industry - NEC C&C Prize. Dr. Rechtin is a Fellow of AAAS, AIAA and IEEE and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.
How do even highly-respected organizations maintain their vaunted excellence, accommodate the new world of economics and communication, and still survive against stiff competition already in place? The speaker will show why excellent organizations have so much trouble trying to swim in today's world of globalization - and suggest what both organizations and their professionals might do about it. The essence of the answers is to view organizations as systems (collections of different units which together, and only together, add new capability of value to the client). Paradoxically the very strengths of current excellent organizations may be serious weaknesses when moving into, what appear to be, promising directions. The greatest single cause of failure to succeed again is the unstated assumptions from the past and the most common error is to magnificently engineer a system for a non-existent purpose. Several examples will be cited.