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Friday Fun Day (#FFD): Crowd-Sourced Rules for Success

Friday Fun Day (#FFD): Crowd-Sourced Rules for Success

By Astiles  on March 13, 2009

Yesterday, I experienced moments of surprise and curiosity related to some recent instances of people not seeming to recognize the name of Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, the founder of Lockheed Martin's SkunkWorks. On Facebook and on Twitter, I had conversations with several of you about Kelly Johnson's legacy, which prompted me to do a quick web refresher course of my own.

In the course of my web hunting, I became re-acquainted with Kelly's Rules, in which he codified fourteen strategies for the continued success of SkunkWorks. Although a few of them are quite specific to Lockheed Martin, the rules still make a nice set of guidelines for success in the aerospace industry--in fact, probably in any industry. I'll give the full list below.

Many of you are probably familiar with Peter's Laws (not to be confused with tennis pro Peter Laws, a collection or rules for professional success compiled by our own Peter Diamandis back in the late 80s. They definitely have a different tone that Kelly's Rules, but are equally worth reading. I'll also reproduce that full list below.

Reading through these got me thinking: if Kelly Johnson and Peter Diamandis could both come up with these lists of helpful rules, why not us?

Which brings us to today's Friday Fun Day Challenge. Let's build a crowd-sourced set of rules for success! In the comments to this post, please leave the rules that you personally live by, or which you have seen lead to systematic improvements. They can related to your professional life or to your home life--just try to make sure they are as close to universally applicable. I'd love it if you also shared a bit of the why or the how behind these rules--how did you develop them? How have they worked in your own career? At the end of the day, I'll compile all of these into a master list, and we'll see what we've got. Maybe we'll even get a poster of our own!

I encourage you to get an early start on this--I've got a suspicion you are going to have something else very Fun to deal with this afternoon (Update! The distraction I alluded to this morning is now public: enjoy the awesome new features in Google Mars!... I'll try to chime in with my own suggested rules in a few hours, but don't be shy--get us started!

I'll leave you with the original inspiration for this post, Kelly's Rules and Peter's Laws.
Kelly's Rules
1. The Skunk Works® manager must be delegated practically complete control of his program in all aspects. He should report to a division president or higher.

2. Strong but small project offices must be provided both by the military and industry.

3. The number of people having any connection with the project must be restricted in an almost vicious manner. Use a small number of good people (10% to 25% compared to the so-called normal systems).

4. A very simple drawing and drawing release system with great flexibility for making changes must be provided.

5. There must be a minimum number of reports required, but important work must be recorded thoroughly.

6. There must be a monthly cost review covering not only what has been spent and committed but also projected costs to the conclusion of the program. Don't have the books ninety days late and don't surprise the customer with sudden overruns.

7. The contractor must be delegated and must assume more than normal responsibility to get good vendor bids for subcontract on the project. Commercial bid procedures are very often better than military ones.

8. The inspection system as currently used by the Skunk Works®, which has been approved by both the Air Force and Navy, meets the intent of existing military requirements and should be used on new projects. Push more basic inspection responsibility back to subcontractors and vendors. Don't duplicate so much inspection.

9. The contractor must be delegated the authority to test his final product in flight. He can and must test it in the initial stages. If he doesn't, he rapidly loses his competency to design other vehicles.

10. The specifications applying to the hardware must be agreed to well in advance of contracting. The Skunk Works® practice of having a specification section stating clearly which important military specification items will not knowingly be complied with and reasons therefore is highly recommended.

11. Funding a program must be timely so that the contractor doesn't have to keep running to the bank to support government projects.

12. There must be mutual trust between the military project organization and the contractor with very close cooperation and liaison on a day-to-day basis. This cuts down misunderstanding and correspondence to an absolute minimum.

13. Access by outsiders to the project and its personnel must be strictly controlled by appropriate security measures.

14. Because only a few people will be used in engineering and most other areas, ways must be provided to reward good performance by pay not based on the number of personnel supervised.

Peter's Laws
1. If anything can go wrong, Fix It!! (To hell with Murphy!)
2. When given a choice -- Take Both!!
3. Multiple projects lead to multiple successes.
4. Start at the top then work your way up.
5. Do it by the book ... but be the author!
6. When forced to compromise, ask for more.
7. If you can't beat them, join them, then beat them.
8. If it's worth doing, it's got to be done right now.
9. If you can't win, change the rules.
10. If you can't change the rules, then ignore them.
11. Perfection is not optional.
12. When faced without a challenge, make one.
13. "No" simply means begin again at one level higher
14. Don't walk when you can run.
15. Bureaucracy is a challenge to be conquered with a righteous attitude, a tolerance for stupidity,
and a bulldozer when necessary.
16. When in doubt: THINK!
17. Patience is a virtue, but persistence to the point of success is a blessing.
18. The squeaky wheel gets replaced.
19. The faster you move, the slower time passes, the longer you live.
20. The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself!

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