Human Systems Integration: The Cognitive Element

A course presented over five days by Gavan Lintern PhD (Psychology, Computer Science) FHFES


Human Systems Integration is a systems engineering strategy that enhances system performance by integrating technical functions of subsystems with the human work processes those technical functions need to support. Human Systems Integration addresses the design of technological support systems such as interfaces and decision aids. It also addresses human resource issues such as team design, organisational design, staffing, selection and training. The goal of Human Systems Integration is to establish a robust system in which the human capability to perform work is optimized.

This world-leading course focuses on cognitive issues, which are particularly challenging for Human Systems Integration because standard engineering methods do not capture the essential complexities of cognition. This course introduces delegates to specialized methods of human systems analysis and design, and illustrates how those methods can be used to enhance performance and safety within large-scale socio-technical systems. The course, while standing alone, complements PPI's 5-day systems engineering course.

Course Overview

The analysis and modelling techniques to be introduced in this course have been developed to address the challenge of designing system functionality that will support human participants as they interact with technological functionality to perform cognitive work. This five-day course covers two complementary frameworks of analysis and design. The basic tools of each are described and then demonstrated, to illustrate how they can be applied to enhance human systems integration within systems development and acquisition. Interactive design exercises are used to give delegates practical experience with the techniques.

Who Should Attend This Course?

Anyone directly involved with analysis and design of human-systems functionality or who develops sub-systems with which humans must interact will benefit from this course. Additionally, program managers who hire and task human-systems analysts and designers or who must assess the overall potential of envisioned or existing human-centric systems will benefit, for example:

  • All designers of systems that include humans as operators, users, patients, professional staff, or managers
  • Human-system integrators
  • Specifiers of user interfaces
  • Designers of user interfaces
  • Designers responsible for usability
  • Systems engineers
  • Software engineers who implement user requirements
  • System safety engineers
  • Engineering managers and team leaders

More generally, managers in all technical and non-technical areas will develop profound insights about human individual, team and organisational behaviour that impacts the successful operation of any large-scale enterprise.

Training Methods and Materials

Being an overview seminar, this course is delivered primarily in an interactive presentation with exercises.

A specific, but fictitious, problem is posed at the beginning of the workshop. Exercises relevant to that problem are introduced for each of the analytic tools covered in the workshop. These exercises progressively develop the cognitive work requirements for the system under consideration. The intent is to demonstrate how the suite of analyses discussed in the workshop contributes to a comprehensive treatment of cognitive work within the design and acquisition of a complex, socio-technical system.

Training Objective

At the conclusion of this course, delegates are expected to:

  • understand the concepts of relating to the cognitive issues important to human systems integration;
  • understand why a systematic approach to human systems integration is important to capability and product development;
  • be familiar with the essential tools of human systems analysis and modeling;
  • understand the criteria for applying particular tools to the variety of human systems issues encountered in capability and product development;
  • understand how to identify and task Human Systems Engineering specialists, to ensure that they work effectively within the project team; and
  • understand the range of techniques available for assessing the effectiveness of human system integration outcomes.

The course, while standing alone, complements PPI's 5-day Systems Engineering course.

Key Questions

There are standards for this. Can't we rely on them?

Cognitive work is a problem area for standards. The human cognitive system is nonlinear and contextually dependent. There is currently insufficient knowledge to write meaningful standards that will guide a designer towards the development of effective cognitive support systems such as, for example, decision support systems and situation awareness support systems. Even where standards name a relevant problem area, such as workload, they offer no meaningful advice beyond the homily that workload should not be excessive. They offer no useful advice about how to assess whether or not workload is excessive or how to design so that it is not. My 5-day Human Systems Integration course deals with this issue.

Can't we adapt standard engineering analysis and modeling tools for this?

The engineering professions have many powerful analysis and modeling tools that find valuable service in other disciplines. However, context dependence and nonlinearity were once largely ignored in the engineering disciplines and even now, remain as challenging problems. Human Systems Integration needs to confront context dependence and nonlinearity.

Additionally, humans are powerful, multi-function systems. Few engineering tools address the human in any way but those that do, typically treat the human as a user or operator rather than as a functional part of the system. Such an approach fails to take advantage of the unique capabilities that a human can contribute to system performance.

The analysis and modeling tools covered in this course deal with those issues.

Why does it matter? If we do the engineering right, humans will adapt!

Humans are, indeed, adaptable. The more resourceful members of our species can make anything work for them. However, it does take effort. When the human operators have to struggle with a system to get it to work for them, they have less time and energy for productive work. Furthermore, any system that is difficult to use demands more extensive training, which is an additional cost. Most troubling, clumsy systems induce human error, which can result in huge costs in time, material, and human life.

Humans are the problem. Can't we avoid all this by automating everything and getting rid of the human?

Those who think this ignore the fact that human errors are typically induced by poor design. Additionally, this sort of attitude assumes implicitly that systems are always well-designed and well maintained and that design engineers can anticipate all contingencies. The extensive record on industrial disasters shows otherwise. Indeed, human adaptability and resourcefulness are strengths, without which, complex modern systems could not work.

Automation is the holy grail of Human Systems Integration. However, humans are inevitably participants as designers, managers and benefactors. The idea of a fully-automated system that can deal with all contingencies without human intervention is a science-fiction fantasy. Once we retreat from that ideal and allow humans some interventionist role, the interface between the machine and the human must be configured on the basis of cognitively oriented analysis and design principles. My 5-day Human Systems Integration course deals with this issue and offers a sensible perspective on the way that automation can be used to good effect.

What is the added value?

What is the added value for anything? If you add insulation or double-glazed windows to your home to save energy costs, you can calculate the costs and estimate the savings. That is straightforward enough. Large-scale engineering projects are not as straightforward. To assess the added value of Human Systems Integration, we would have to track and compare projects that ignored Human Systems Integration to those that paid it some attention and those that paid it considerable attention. Even then, we would have to assess the quality of those efforts. These sorts of data are not available anywhere. My 5-day Human Systems Integration course does, however, discuss a small set of selected projects in which a modest amount of human systems analysis and design saved many times its cost. The course also covers incidents in which flawed human performance as induced by poor design has resulted in huge costs in terms of loss of productivity and loss of human life.

Can we afford this? Won't it increase costs and delay system delivery?

A well planned Human Systems Integration effort is more likely to decrease costs and to speed design. The real issue is whether the human interfaces and the cognitive work supports are done well or poorly. It will certainly cost more and delay system delivery if they are done poorly at first and then have to be redone.

Systems engineering already has the 9 domains for Human Systems Integration. Isn't this already covered there?

Yes, it is covered there but the analysis and modeling tools are not well described, particularly in relation to cognitive issues. To illustrate, noise suppression can be modelled by standard linear algorithms but the cognitive processing associated with gathering, interpreting and acting on information cannot. Cognitive analysis can be deployed to good effect in any information-intensive work domain. Health care, military command-and-control and industrial power generation are just three work domains that can benefit from the systematic analysis and design of cognitive work. The focus is on helping workers think more effectively by design of support technologies, work processes or training.

Does human systems integration link in any way to systems engineering?

Yes, human systems integration is just one piece of systems engineering but it has an important role to play. A module in the course covers this in extensive detail.

Human Systems Integration: The Cognitive Element

Day 1

0. Introduction - What is Human Systems Integration?

1. Introduction (1.5 hours)

  • Introducing the course & your instructor
  • Course Overview

2. Information Management Exercise (1 hour)

  • Team Cognition (group exercise & debrief)

3. Cognitive Task Analysis Part 1 (3 hours)

  • Naturalistic Decision Making
  • Decision Centered Design

4. Cognitive Task Analysis Part 2 (1 hour)

  • Macro-Cognition

5. Cognitive Analysis & Modelling for Systems Engineering (30 mins)

  • Video: Cognitive Analysis & Modelling for Systems Engineering

Day 2

6. Cognitive Task Analysis, Part 3 (1.5 hours)

  • Team Cognition
  • Decision Centred Design for Teams

7. Organizational Cognition (2 hours)

  • Organizational Cognition
  • Cognitive Task Analysis for Organizational Cognition
  • Cognitive Task Analysis; Summary Review

8. What is Human Systems Integration? (1.5 hours)

  • Introduction to Human Systems Integration
  • The Nature of Cognitive Work

9. Entry to Systems Analysis (1 hour)

  • System Boundary Analysis

10. Cognitive Work Analysis, Part 1 (30 mins)

  • What is Cognitive Work Analysis?
  • Introductory thoughts on design (video) - (optional extra)

Day 3

11. Cognitive Work Analysis, Part 2 (2.5 hours)

  • Work Domain Analysis Introduction
  • Work Domain Analysis (Foundations)
  • Work Domain Analysis (Issues)

12. Cognitive Work Analysis, Part 3 (2.5 hours)

  • Work Domain Analysis (Controversies)
  • Work Organization Analysis
  • Social Transactions Analysis

13. Cognitive Work Analysis, Part 4 (1.25 hours)

  • Work Domain Analysis, Joker One; Work Organization Analysis, Joker One

14. After Action Review (45 mins)

  • After Action Review (Movie); After Action Review (Slides)

Day 4

15. Cognitive Work Analysis, Part 5 (1 hour)

  • Work Task Analysis, Joker One
  • Decision Ladders for Recognition-Primed Decisions (optional)

16. Cognitive Work Analysis, Part 6 (3 hours)

  • Cognitive Strategies Analysis & Cognitive Competencies Analysis
  • Social Transactions Analysis, Joker One
  • Work Domain Analysis; Problem versus Solution Space
  • Design a "Divert" Command & Control system (group exercise),
  • Cognitive Work Analysis; Summary Review

17. Cognitive & System Performance Metrics (2 hours)

  • Cognitive & System Performance Metrics
  • Situation Assessment & Planning

18. Return on Investment (25 mins)

  • Return on Investment

19. Cognitive Analysis Exercise (45 mins)

  • Plan the analysis of a system you know

Day 5

20. Innovation for Cognitive Design (1.5 hours)

  • Concept Development

21. Cognitive Design (2 hours)

  • Cognitive Design Patterns
  • Functional Workspace Design

22. Cognitive Requirements (1 hour)

  • Cognitive Requirements

23. Spot the cognition (1 hour)

  • Movie; Houston, we have a problem!

24. Summary (45 mins)

  • Summary Review of Workshop
  • Workshop Evaluation

About the Presenter - Dr. Gavan Lintern

Gavan Lintern earned his B.A. (1969) and M.A. (1971) degrees in experimental psychology from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and his Ph.D. (1978) in Engineering Psychology from the University of Illinois. He has worked in aviation-related human factors research at the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (then known as the Aeronautical Research Laboratories), Melbourne from 1971 to 1974, and in flight simulation research on a US Navy program in Orlando, Florida from 1978 to 1985. He returned to the University of Illinois in 1985 to take up a position as a faculty member at the Institute of Aviation. In 1997 he returned to the Defense Science and Technology Organisation in Melbourne. He returned to the US in 2001 to take up a position with Aptima, Inc. in Boston and then moved to General Dynamics Advance Information Systems in Dayton Ohio in 2003.

Human Systems Integration: The Cognitive Element Course Schedule (Scroll to view full schedule)

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