May 2011
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Month May 2011

Hi there. I'm a Partner at Undercurrent, where I lead a team focused on helping ambitious organizations operate in ways that are beneficial to all their users.

Vintage Photos

Inspired by The Sartorialist, I asked my mom to grab a few stylish vintage photos. These are my favorites.

First photo: my Grandma, Ruth Parker (nee: Ekholm), boarding a train to Columbus, Georgia in 1943. Dope glasses.

Second photo: my Grandpa, David Henry Parker, in San Leandro, 1943.

Third photo: both of the above, in San Leandro, 1943.


To spare you the extreme displeasure of going to the Lockheed Martin site to find the operating principles behind the O.G. Skunkworks, I’ve pasted them below. The bolding is mine.

  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.
  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, the 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.

I really, really like all of these, especially the bit about the drawing systems. To me, having a simple, swift method for creating and revising is one of the most important things a strategist can have in his/her bag’o'tricks.

Principles for Pattern Implementation

Since Alex and I are giving a talk soon (hopefully) on city/urban planning and the internets, I figured I would just blog my notes. Hope you like.

The following seven principles are from a book called A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander et al., and they describe the method by which builders should implement the “patterns” laid out in subsequent chapters of the book. The patterns used by the book are essentially design guidelines, and they range from exceptionally broad (creating rings of similar density throughout a town or region) to exceptionally specific (having multiple types of chairs within a common space). It’s a rad book:

  1. The region is made up of a hierarchy of social and political groups, from the smallest and most local groups – families, neighborhoods and work groups – to the largest groups – city councils, regional assemblies.
  2. Each group makes its own decisions about the environment it uses in common.
  3. Each of these groups takes responsibility for those patterns relevant to its own internal structure.
  4. Each neighborhood, community or city is free to find various ways of persuading its constituent groups of individuals to implement these patterns gradually.
  5. Implementation should be loose and voluntary, based on social responsibility, and not on legislation or coercion.
  6. Experts use patterns to inform their construction of lower-level places, using any higher patterns that the community has adopted.
  7. It is possible for individual acts of building to begin working their way toward communal patterns before neighborhood, community and regional groups are formed.

All are a reminder that the stuff we all ramble on about today – when talking about building successful communities online, etc. – is old news once the sheen of digital is washed away.