Date of Award

Spring 2011

Access Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Human Factors & Systems


Human Factors and Systems

Committee Chair

Kelly J. Neville, Ph.D.

First Committee Member

Albert J. Boquet, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Scott A. Shappell, Ph.D.


Large systems engineering projects have an astonishingly high failure rate. The reasons hypothesized for such a high failure rate include the neglect of nonsalient system elements such as social and human or organizational aspects of systems. Social and human factors have long been known to be critical elements of systems that are frequently ignored (e.g., Goguen, 1994). Systems engineering processes can benefit and be improved by effective utilization of a framework that helps developers expand their attention and efforts beyond the salient aspects of the system and the development process. In the aviation field, the Human Factors Analysis and Classification System (HFACS) is used to facilitate the consideration of non-salient, easily overlooked influences on the potential for aviation mishaps. This system has improved the effectiveness of the aviation accident investigation by helping investigators perform a thorough analysis of the system factors that may have contributed to the accident. HFACS helps aviation organizations improve their quality assessment and monitoring by making explicit the relationships between a wide range of organizational factors and accident risks. In this research, a framework similar to HFACS was developed for the systems engineering domain.The purpose of the framework is to guide and improve systems engineering projects. This research was conducted using qualitative methods to identify the elements and structure of a framework for quality improvement in system engineering. Data extracted from interviews and systems engineering literature was assessed in a bottom-up manner to identify emergent patterns and in a top-down manner using HFACS-based themes. The framework developed from this research can be used to guide systems development organizations analyze both the obvious and the latent reasons behind a project's failure. This would help systems development teams to better understand the causal factors underlying a systems development failure and look out for them in the future. Using the framework, organizations and development teams can better understand the positive effects of considering all elements of a system, including the social and human factors that may not be obvious.