The Evolution of a Science Project: A Preliminary System Dynamics Model of a Recurring Software-Reliant Acquisition Behavior
Analysis work by the SEI on data collected from more than 100 Independent Technical Assessments (ITAs) of software-reliant acquisition programs has produced insights into some of the most common ways that programs encounter difficulties. This report describes work done at the SEI that is based on these insights, and intends to mitigate the effects of both misaligned acquisition program organizational incentives, and adverse soft-ware-reliant acquisition structural dynamics, by improving acquisition staff decision-making. The research presented here uses a preliminary system dynamics model to analyze a specific adverse acquisition dynamic concerning the poorly controlled evolution of small prototype efforts into full-scale systems that is called "The Evolution of a Science Project." The report provides a narrative from an actual acquisition program that exemplifies the dynamic, qualitatively describes its key aspects, and presents some of the most relevant prior research done on one of those aspects, project rework. The system dynamics model of the behavior is described in detail, along with the process by which it was developed, and the results of simulations run using the model. The report concludes with a set of lessons learned about system dynamics modeling, as well as potential future research directions.