Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Managing Your Skunkworks

The key to a successful skunk works is the right kind of manager. It takes a special person to manage a department completely dedicated to innovative thinking. He or she must be able to nurture and foster a creative atmosphere but also be able to rein in excesses. In short, you need a real corporate maverick that isn't afraid to bend the rules to get results.

The perfect skunk works manager:
  • is not an obsessive bean counter but understands the relevance of budgets.
  • follows a laissez-faire management style.
  • encourages freedom to persue odd ideas.
  • encourages constant discussion and friendly argument.
  • uses equal parts of positive and negative reinforcement to motivate.
  • understands the needs of creative people and works to provide the needed resources to foster innovation.
  • provides guidance instead of strict adherence to company policy.
  • focuses on the overall business strategy not departmental tactics.
  • knows when to break the rules.
  • is willing to put his neck on the line to protect his workers.
Obviously, this isn't a position for everyone. Very few managers will actually have the right combination of skills needed to manage a department of highly intelligent and creative workers. However, the wrong manager will wreak havoc and will ruin any benefits you may derive from your skunk works.
Take your time and choose wisely. The person you are looking for may not fit the standard management mold that your company employs. True mavericks are hard to find, but are worth their weight in gold.


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