I’m reading Bruce Sterling‘s 2004 novel The Zenith Angle, and just less than 75 pages in last night, I was hit by some surprisingly sensible project management and leadership advice — coming from the pages of a skiffy book! Without further ado, “How to Run a Skunk Works”:
“These are simple things. They’re the principles. You gotta listen, that’s number one. It’s more important to listen to your own people than it is to tell ’em what to do. Decide, that’s number two. Make your management decisions whenever they’re needed. You can figure out later whether they were right or wrong. And believe. Don’t ever try to build a project that you can’t believe in. Because otherwise, when they cut your funding — and they will cut it — you won’t be able to tell ’em with a straight face why they should go straight to hell.
“[Organizations] are just like people. They get slow as they get older. They get very stuck in their ways. That just won’t do for a Skunk Works. You’ve got to be quick, you’ve got to be quiet, and you’ve got to be on time. You had your three principles, and those are your three rules.
“When I tell you ‘quick,’ that means small. Small teams, the best people, very restricted. No long reports, ever. No long meetings. You want to keep ’em all working close together, no distractions, focused on the project all the time.
“When I say ‘quiet,’ that means no talking. You don’t brag about what you’re doing. Ever. You just do it, and you never demand any credit.
“You got to be on time! You got to do it when there are stars in their eyes about it! Before they get all bureaucratic, and start counting every nickel and dime! Timing is the hardest part, son: you gotta know when good enough will do. You gotta know when to quit.”
Awesome. What other potentially surprising sources of team leadership advice have you encountered?