This dissertation explores how an enterprise that develops a large complex engineering system can deliver a high quality, technically superior product, on schedule, and within budget. Typically, for aerospace programs, the targets of system performance, cost, and schedule cannot be met simultaneously, resulting in zero-sum tradeoffs among them. The F/A-18E/F1 Super Hornet is the Navy’s newest fighter aircraft, and the Super Hornet enterprise managed to do
what is widely considered impossible in the industry. They delivered an aircraft that met or exceeded all technical requirements, on time, and without exceeding the budget. The secrets to success of high-performing programs like the Super Hornet are not often well understood and, as a result, they remain elusive to those who try to replicate the results.
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How do enterprises successfully conceive, design, deliver, and operate large-scale, engineered systems? These large-scale projects often involve high complexity, significant technical
challenges, a large number of diverse stakeholders, distributed execution, and aggressive goals. In this context, simultaneously meeting technical performance, cost, and schedule goals
effectively and efficiently is a serious challenge. In fact, it is rarely accomplished. The nature of an enterprise contributes to this challenge. Enterprises are interorganizational networks with
distributed leadership and stakeholders with both common and diverse interests. They are unique from traditional levels of analysis in organizational studies, and in general their behavior
is not well understood. They are a prevalent form of organizing work in these large engineering projects, where one organization simply does not have the capability or willingness to take on
the entire project by themselves. This work explores the factors that distinguish high performance enterprises from those that are less successful in these large-scale projects.