A Pattern language - SkunkWorkEngineering?
Rarely are SkunkWorks
projects supported or encouraged by a company. It is a very difficult thing to manage and control from an official company policies
point of view. Some corporations have dabbled in supporting SkunkWorks
(Hewlett-Packard kept an 'open lab and supplies' policy to encourage tinkering...), but it is still rare. 3M had something like this. Do they still?
By realizing that you have a need to develop something in the SkunkWorks
it does not suggest that a corporation is bad or restrictive. Change is hard to promote, and it must sometimes evolve from a grass-roots
An example: You are in a corporation of several hundred people. The corporation as a whole will not make a move to Object Oriented Technology. Maybe the group you are in are reluctant to be the first to make such a move (lack of training, inertia, contract or customer constraints, etc). This is where SkunkWorks
comes into play.
Everyone is encouraged to modify, annotate and expand upon the following list of possible SkunkWorks
- DesignTheRightThing - Work toward the right solution, even if a worse one has been suggested.
- SneakInNewTechnologies - Introduce new techniques silently.
- TwoDocsForThePriceOfOne? - If your documentation standard is lousy, supplement it with a more robust style (perhaps in Pattern form?)
- ProofInPudding - Make sure that you are successful, it is hard to argue against success.
- RevolutionThruEvolution? - Slowly change the way you develop software.
- HitHardAndFast? - Don't wait around for an audit. Take too long and someone will figure out that you are doing something different.
- AlwaysMeetDeadlines? - See LieToYourManager.
- LieToYourManager - As long as you deliver, don't mention the fact that you are trying new and different stuff... This can be dangerous though...
- RunSilentRunDeep? - SkunkWorks should NOT be high, medium or low profile, it should be sub-low profile.
- NoSilverBullet (If you meet the Buddha in the middle of the road, kill him) - Don't get trapped in the idea that you have found the perfect technique that will revolutionize the company.
- LordOfTheFlies - Don't soothe management, beat it to death.
- GiveThemWhatTheyNeed - If the ProofInPudding, and management doesn't know what to do because IcouldDoThisInaWeek? , then just GiveThemWhatTheyNeed.
- DontAskPermission - Sometimes it's a lot easier to just do the right thing than to get the appropriate signatures on a proposal to do the right thing.
sent me these additions:
- MakeApostlesSuccessful? - if the idea is really radical, you may need to prove that others can adopt it. Find some risk-tolerant colleagues and help them use your idea. Do whatever it takes to make sure that they don't fail.
- AlwaysHaveOneOnTheBackBurner? - Skunkworks projects are risky and prone to failure. The only way you will get a reasonable number of successes is to Try, Try, Again. This is particularly important if you are trying something truly new (as opposed to transferring proven technology from somewhere else).
- CultivateSenseOfHumor? - You will need it. ;-)
The Lockheed lawyers periodically remind people that Lockheed has a trademark on the phrase "Skunk Works". Such a reminder appears in a recent Doctor Dobbs Journal. -- DaveSmith
Insane. What are they going to do? Release a product with that name someday?
[Lockheed's tight claim to this trademark is particularly amusing when you
consider that skunkworks
translates as our company's management would screw this project up if they knew it existed
Lockheed is jealous of the name. They got SCO to rename their "Skunkware" tools CD with legal pressure.