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Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed Paperback – February 1, 1996
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Primarily focusing on the F-117 Stealth, it has sizable portions devoted to the U-2, and the SR-71 Mach 3 Spy Planes. Truly incredible developments in the World of Aviation.
A great read.
(1) Eliminate bureaucracy
(2) Prefer having a small with high average talent to a larger less talented team
(3) Make sure different functions are physically next to each and communicate incessantly
(4) Shield the team from external pressure
(5) Challenge the team with "impossible" problems that get talented people excited.
These are all things that can help a small talented team far outperform a larger team with a much bigger budget.
Here's one example. One engineer was formulating a new fuel for the U-2 that would work in the high altitude engine. The fuel was called LF something or other, and there was a running joke that that stood for "Lighter Fluid" due to it's awful smell. Chemically it was actually more similar to one of the main ingredients in the bug spray "Flit", which was popular at the time. The year they put the (still very top-secret) U2 into service, there was an unexplained nationwide shortage of bug-spray.
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Also looks at the management of business, and possible 'over management'.
At times you'll be reading in disbelief, the innovation and ingenuity of the Skunk Works is beyond comprehension. To think that this technology was around many moons ago, veiled in secrecy, makes you wonder what soars above our very heads in the present day.
Anyone who has an interest in aviation most probably has this book already, but really I feel that there is a much wider appeal. In reading Skunk Works you'll gain an understanding of Cold War history, and the extreme levels of secrecy it induced, business management, international incidents like the Gary Powers' capture, and of course you'll learn about aviation. But perhaps most importantly, you'll have read an absolute whirlwind of a story, one that'll have you thinking you're reading a fiction in the same vein as The Minority Report, Telling stories of impossible technologies.
I'd highly recommend this book to anyone, literally anyone and everyone, except maybe people I don't like, but even then I'd feel like I was robbing them of a mind-blowing read. The fact you're even on this page means at the very least that the cover induced a little interest. And in my mind that pretty much guarantees you'll enjoy reading it. So treat yourself, treat a friend, buy two, you won't regret it.