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Linking Leadership and Technical Execution in Unprecedented Systems of Systems Acquisitions

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Journal Article

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United States Air Force El Segundo United States

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The acquisition of systems is as much an art as a science, a premise that is underscored by the limited understanding of the variables found in complex systems-of-systems. Moreover, the art and science associated with acquiring systems has been steadily increasing in complexity as the various technologies being acquired have made huge advances in capabilities. One of the most challenging types of acquisition to execute well is that requiring the development of an unprecedented system-of-systems or an ultra large scale system. The challenges to the acquisition staff range the spectrum of those faced at all levels in the acquiring organization from that of the most senior leadership and management, through those architecting the system, down to the individual engineer executing technical tasks as a part of the concept, design, development, fielding, and sustainment of such systems-of-systems. Leadership theory based on transformational and transactional leadership styles assists in highlighting leadership problems in unprecedented acquisitions. Coupled to these challenges are the clearly demonstrable requirements for ever closer linkages between each of the discrete functional levels within the acquiring organization. The study of the essential nature of theses linkages, and how their performance can severely impact the probability of success and effectiveness of the acquisition, is examined through the evaluation of a number of exemplar case studies. Using analytical insight derived from these case studies, combined with the application of current theories on leadership and management, this paper evolves the transdisciplinary premise by articulating that leadership and technical execution must be tightly linked especially when developing unprecedented systems-of systems.

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