ARR 2012

Understanding the Logic of Failures:

How to Learn from Failures and Ensure Successful System Development Projects


The news media loves to sensationalize failed programs and attempts to point towards development organizations as the culprits with reasons such as inept management or fraud.  However, these are seldom the causes and the actual root causes of program failures are much deeper and more complex.  In addition, the ramifications of failed programs are much more pervasive today in an environment where “everything is connected to everything”.  Dietrich Dorner, in his book The Logic of Failure: Recognizing and Avoiding Error in Complex Situations, suggests that:

Real improvement [in complex problem solving] can be achieved… if we understand the demands that problem solving places on us and the errors that we are prone to make when we attempt to meet them.  Our brains are not fundamentally flawed; we have simply developed bad habits.  When we fail to solve a problem, we fail because we tend to make a small mistake here, a small mistake there, then these mistakes add up.  Here we have forgotten to make our goal specific enough.  There we have over-generalized.  Here we have planned too elaborately, there too sketchily.”

This year’s CSSE Annual Research Review (ARR) will look at root causes of failed programs in a complex environment; ways to detect early when a program is heading for trouble; and methods, techniques, and tools that can both help programs avoid problems and turn problem programs into successes.  As part of this year’s event, we will explore the people, process, and product aspects of failed and successful programs.  Topics covered will include:

  • Planning for innovation;
  • Effective techniques for early feasibility assessments;
  • Engineering experience acceleration; flexibility, agility, leanness, and the role of architectures;
  • Cost modeling, measurement, and the role of historical data;
  • How to balance security engineering with system performance. 

The ARR will include research presentations from CSSE personnel on March 6 and the Executive Workshop discussions on March 7  The objective of the ARR is to exchange ideas, highlight shared problems, and attempt to identify promising models, methods, techniques, and tools to support successful engineering of software-intensive systems.

In addition, this year’s ARR will dovetail with USC Computer Department’s Research Day, which will be held on March 8 and which will showcase the wide range of research taking place within various labs at USC, as well as USC’s two affiliated research institutes – Information Sciences Institute (ISI) and Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT).  Detailed information on the CS Research Day will be made available at soon.

For further information, please contact Ms. Julie Sanchez at

Looking forward to seeing you in March!

Nenad Medvidovic   Jo Ann Lane
CSSE Director  Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering

In addition to several planned invited talks, we are soliciting speakers for this event. Please submit titles and abstracts by February 6, 2012 to Dr. Nenad Medvidovic at


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