Moonlighting, Moonshining, Skunksworks, Trystorming and 3P

Moonshine Still


Moonlighting – work a second job, usually after hours; “The medical student is moonlighting as a taxi driver”.   To work at another job, often at night, in addition to one’s full-time job.  Also to sell unused vacation time to do some consulting – how I got in to this line of work.

Moonshining – Illicit distilling of alcohol. Often at night with home made apparatus. When several Japanese consultants from Shingijitsu were working with Boeing on kaizen they observed a team member bringing some homemade fixtures in to solve a problem.  Described as “doing a little moonlighting” this term was misunderstood or mistranslated as moonshining, now the common term used to describe a key stage of 3P – Production Preparation Process.

Skunk Works – A skunkworks is a group of people who, in order to achieve unusual results, work on a project in a way that is outside the usual rules. A skunkworks is often a small team that assumes or is given responsibility for developing something in a short time with minimal management constraints. Typically, a skunkworks has a small number of members in order to reduce communications overhead. A skunkworks is sometimes used to spearhead a product design that thereafter will be developed according to the usual process. A skunkworks project may be secret.  The name is taken from the moonshine factory in Al Capp’s cartoon, “Lil’ Abner.”



The following are from Kelly Johnson of Lockheed’s Skunk Works:

  1. The Skunk Works manager must be delegated practically complete control of his program in all aspects. They 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. Don’t have the books ninety days late and don’t surprise the customer with sudden overruns.
  7. The contractor must be delegated and must assume more than normal responsibility to get good vendor bids for subcontracts on the project. Commercial bid procedures are very often better than military ones.
  8. The inspection system as currently used by ADP, 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 their final product in flight. They can and must test it in the initial stages. If they don’t, they rapidly lose their competency to design other vehicles.
  10. The specifications applying to the hardware and software must be agreed to in advance of contracting. A specification section stating clearly which important military specification items will not knowingly be complied with and reasons 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 with 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.

“Reducing the time to evaluation of a system almost always leads to lower costs, greater flexibility for change, improved overall performance, and less risk.”
“When the prototype approach for system development is used, ultimate production of the system must be considered throughout the design and evaluation phase.”

See Wikipedia for more on Lockheed Skunk Works.

Trystorming – extends brainstorming by quickly creating mock-ups that can be rapidly and thoroughly evaluated.  Trystorming refers to taking an idea and trying it out in practice. If the idea concerns the design of a product, you mock-up the product. If the idea is about a process improvement, you pilot the improvement.  Sometimes we start with sketches, then table top ‘paper dolls’, then move on to life size mock ups with cardboard, 2 by 4’s, or whatever comes to hand.  Finally build a functional model, although maybe not ‘industrial strength’ we prove out the concepts before building or buying the final machines, products, or processes.