Faculty Profile: Deborah Nightingale & Donna Rhodes
Two of MIT’s leading engineering systems thinkers, Debbie Nightingale and Donna Rhodes, have a terrific partnership as well as distinct careers. Their work on MIT Professional Education’s recent International Program in Italy, “Architecting the Future Enterprise,” is just the latest in their collaborations on transforming large-scale organizations using lean principles. Nightingale and Rhodes began co-teaching a graduate level course in 2004 and they are completing a book for MIT Press about the same subject. Both embrace a holistic approach to this field.
“Taking a holistic approach is the defining difference,” Nightingale says of their methodology.
“Most of the time when people look at the architecture of an enterprise, they are taking a single view—looking at the IT or the organization or the process. Our approach is that you have to look at all the parts in parallel.”
She uses that philosophy throughout her work, which includes heading the MIT Sociotechnical Systems Research Center (SSRC), a cross-disciplinary center that focuses on high-impact, complex systems, and as co-director of the Lean Advancement Initiative (LAI).
One of Nightingale’s newest projects, co-sponsored with LAI and the MIT Collaborative Initiatives, is in healthcare research. She is the project lead on a major new grant from the US Military Health System designed to improve the treatment of military personnel suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and major depression. Her team will review existing services, map enterprise-level decisions and their interactions, and help the Department of Defense create a more efficient and effective operation.
One of the things Rhodes shares with Nightingale is a focus on working with decision makers to forge a new understanding of complex systems, how they interact, and how they can be improved. “We help [decision-makers] create visions for the future,” Rhodes says. “We come up with different concepts of what they could do and evaluate those.”
In the Systems Engineering Advancement Research Initiative (SEAri), Rhodes is applying systems findings in one industry sector to other enterprises. She is also examining what she calls systems of systems.
“Today is it rare to have one system that is not connected to another system,” Rhodes says. “In the defense industry, ground forces are connected to satellites and to ships. You have higher order systems that are comprised of systems in themselves and when you do that, the enterprise itself becomes more challenging than the technology.”
Principles of Enterprise Transformation
This course is based on Prof. Deborah Nightingale and Dr. Jayakanth Srinivasan's 2010 book, Beyond the Lean Revolution: Achieving Successful and Sustainable Enterprise Transformation.
Organizations must go beyond classical lean thinking and embrace the enterprise paradigm to achieve successful and sustainable transformation. This course provides a set of enterprise principles and a transformation roadmap that serve as the foundation for a holistic analysis framework that captures an enterprise's current state, envisions a future state, and determines the actions needed for guiding successful transformation efforts.
Architecting the Future Enterprise
Dr. Donna Rhodes and Prof. Deborah Nightingale teach a holistic approach to guide enterprise leaders in understanding their as-is enterprise, generating and evaluating alternative concepts, and selecting a to-be architecture concept.
They explore the enterprise through 10 fundamental enterprise elements and their interrelationships. This is essential to broadening the leadership conversations needed to reach a strategic enterprise future vision. Based on a decade of research and case investigations, their approach focuses on the necessary prerequisite activity to ensure transformation is based on the right enterprise concept architecture.
About Professor Nightingale
Professor of the Practice of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems
Director of MIT Sociotechnical SystemsResearch Center (SSRC)
Co-director of the Lean Advancement Initiative (LAI)
Interests and involvement
Past President and Fellow of the Institute of Industrial Engineers
Co-author of two books on lean enterprise transformation
About Dr. Rhodes
Senior Lecturer of Engineering Systems
Principal Research Scientist, Systems Engineering Advancement Research Initiative (SEAri)
Principal Research Scientist, Lean Advancement Initiative (LAI)
Recipient of the INCOSE Founders Award and several INCOSE Distinguished Service Awards
Associate Editor, Systems Engineering Journal