Archives For design authority

In an earlier post I had a look at the role played by design authorities in an organisation, which can have a major affect upon both safety and project success. My focus in that post was on the authority aspect.

However another perspective on the role that a design authority performs is that of someone who is able to understand both the operational requirements for a system (e.g. those that define a need) as well as the technical (those that define a solution) and most importantly be able to translate between them.

This is a role that is well understood in architecture, but one that has seemed to diminish and dwindle in engineering where projects of any complexity are more often undertaken by large bureaucratic organisations, which also traditionally fear assigning responsibility to one person.

In any significant design effort a fundamental part of managing and controlling the design effort is establishing a single entity, independent of the ‘agency of design’ itself in which accountability, responsibility and authority over the design is vested.

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Why NASA is like British Rail

Well more precisely, the structural changes that the American space program is undergoing are akin to those that the British rail industry under went during the 1980s.

The past of space transportation in the US is fundamentally defined by NASA, a large, government owned, monolithic, monopolistic, vertically integrated organisation. Sound familiar? It ought, the same description could be applied to the United Kingdom’s British Rail of the 1980s.

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