Rules of Systems Analysis

This is a reworking of a previous post, originally titled Kelly Johnson’s 14 rules of management. I had originally written this when I was working in graphic design and it was directed at that line of work, but I think the concept is easily molded to any job.

I had originally made this list the Skunk Works of Design (SWD), that has been changed to Skunk Works Analysis (SWA).

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.

SWA 1. The analyst must have control of the project, from schedule, to needs gathering, to overall cost (with in limits).

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

SWA 2. Small, competent teams should be provided by the customer, picked by the analyst.

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).

SWA 3. A project does not need everyone’s input, especially on the client side.

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

SWA 4. The project management system should facilitate that changes be made and communicated easily.

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

SWA 5. The project management system should not get in the way of the analysis and research process, this include progress meetings and status reports. The analyst should document their steps to better explain the process to the customer.

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.

SWA 6. Project costs should be reviewed regularly by the analyst-client team, any changes or projected changes in costs should be reported to the client immediately, with justification and explanations.

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.

SWA 7. If you have to subcontract out, make it for less than you charge and make sure you are willing to take responsibility for the results.

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.

SWA 8. It is important to get a solid list of requirements before starting a project. Getting new requirements halfway through the project means you should restart the analysis or rework the entire project timeline.

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.

SWA 9. The client should be kept up to date with the analysis and research, to ensure that the analyst is on the correct pathThis does not include requirements changes

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.

SWA 10. Specifications for the project must be spelled out well in advance. They need to be agreed up on by not only the client, but the client’s boss.

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

SWA 11. Billing, invoicing or charging should be quick. Don’t leave the client guessing what the bill will be.

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.

SWA 12. There must be trust between the analyst and the client. If daily updates are needed, they should be given to cut down on misunderstandings. If they are not needed, don’t do them.

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

SWA 13. Clients should not interact with the analysis and design team, they should interact with project managers. Maintain a sense of team security.

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.

SWA 14. Rewards should be based on performance, those who consistently hit the mark should be rewarded more.