Systems engineering leading indicators for assessing program and technical effectiveness

Donna H. Rhodes, Ricardo Valerdi, Garry J. Roedler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations


This paper discusses a 3-year initiative to transform classical systems engineering (SE) measures into leading indicators, including the resulting guidance information that has been developed and future research directions. Systems engineering leading indicators are meas- ures for evaluating the effectiveness of the systems engineering activities on a program in a manner that provides information about impacts that are likely to affect the system or program performance objectives. A leading indicator may be an individual measure, or collection of measures, that is predictive of future system performance before the performance is realized. Contrary to simple status oriented measures typically used on most projects, leading indica- tors are intended to provide insight into the probable future state, allowing projects to improve the management and performance of complex programs before problems arise. This paper discusses the motivations and collaborative development of the SE leading indicators. It defines the leading indicator construct, introduces the initial set of 13 indicators, and provides guidance for implementation, analysis, and interpretation of these indicators. The initial set of indicators, developed through a collaboration of industry, government, and academia, has recently undergone validation through pilot studies and surveys. This work serves as a foundation for industry implementation and for further research to improve and expand the set of indicators, including development of a better understanding of how to best

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-35
Number of pages15
JournalSystems Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Effectiveness
  • Leading indicators
  • Measurement
  • Metrics
  • Systems engineering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications

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