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Where to find descriptions of modern engineering practices

Documented methods for creating and developing systems can be found in various engineering standards (a standard is when the way to check compliance with the description is known) and public documents (similar to standards, but compliance verification is not implied). Keep in mind that the terminology will vary greatly. For example, it is often referred to as "development process," just as often as "life cycle practices," and sometimes as "life cycle processes." Focus on the content rather than the names: words are important (we usually have nothing besides words), and not important (terminology words have many dictionary meanings, blurry definitions, misuse, distortion in translation, may include metonymy, etc.).

The most typical documentation for practical methods/practices in classical engineering and management are knowledge bodies (body of knowledge[1], corpus of knowledge), describing various sub-practices of a more or less large practice/activity and possible choices of these sub-practices in a connected method. But there may also be handbooks and textbooks.

All of these standards and public documents employ different description methods (viewpoints), providing varying descriptions (view) of even the same practices used in project work. Even the name of the practice will significantly differ, there may be surprises. For example, in medicine today, they treat according to protocols for diagnosis and treatment[2] - these protocols are the methods of treatment, therapy/work is done based on the descriptions of treatment/work methods in these protocols. In knowledge bodies, a practice can be called mastery, or described as ability. Most common are processes (following the tradition of "functional representation of processes" laid down by a series of ISO 9000 standards, where modular/constructive "process as a sequence of steps/operations/work in time" and functional/role-based "process as a description of principles, the way to achieve results, the method of operation" are confused). Methods (sets of practices sufficient to solve a specific task "on key") will also be commonplace, and even methodologies (ISO 24744 suggested considering method/methodology as synonymous), and sometimes a "knowledge area," associated with some "activity" (practice).

System engineering practitioners use the term "activity" and even "work" (when discussing the division of labor). Considering that practices change something in the world around, this is also engineering (not only classical engineering, but also social engineering, along with many other applied practices). In education, one may talk about methodologies, sometimes differentiating between a method, a method description, and a document describing the method - all are referred to with a single word "methodology," sometimes with clarification: a teaching method would be a methodology, while a method description would be methodological recommendations. Always orient yourself based on the situation, what is meant! Words can confuse, work with concepts! In our course, we constantly provide synonyms for practices, making reading more challenging but facilitating the transfer of course knowledge into real projects later on.

Often, a "practice" or one of its synonyms is considered a type, and not mentioned at all: instead, instructions on how and what to do are provided, with the name of the practice but without using the term itself. For example, people discuss "project management" but not "the practice of project management." Similarly, people often mention "airplane" but not "airplane system" - the word "practice" as a pointer of the type is not always present.

You must be able to recognize the type, indicating directly "method/practice/activity" while speaking! "Growing flowers" is an activity, therefore somewhere there exists a description of the way to grow flowers, at least in the gardener's mind (and a methodologist can extract this description of the flower-growing method from the gardener's mind, worldwide literature, and observations of the gardener's behavior). It is essential that you clearly understand when you encounter practices, practice descriptions, practicing under undescribed and undiscussed methods. Then you should play the role of a methodologist and understand what is the method there (model the method, describe its main features) - this should be an ability for anyone with a strong intellect. Methodology is one of the transdisciplinary concepts of the intellectual stack; all other fundamental and applied disciplines, as well as practices based on these disciplines (practice = discipline + technology), are discussed using methodology.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_of_knowledge ↩︎

  2. https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Протоколы_диагностики_и_лечения ↩︎