This article first appeared in the April 2017 Flight Test News.

The following image appeared on twitter on Friday, March 24th, courtesy of Flight Global’s Stephen Trimble, an internal memo from Kelly Johnson giving advice for preparation of briefing slides. The content of the photograph appears below.

To: All Concerned

Subject: “Idiot” Charts and Related Subjects

In the last few days, I have seen several reports prepared in ADP which reflect a method of preparation of data which I insist shall not take place in the Skunk Works. Some of our newer members are drawing up “idiot” charts of a type which I would never use for any presentation nor allow in our reports.  An idiot chart is one of the following:

a. One that states by written sentence a subject which is perfectly clear to the audience and which should be to presentor (sic).  It is generally designed to allow the presentor to spend 4 or 5 minutes on things having nothing to do with the chart.  

b. A systems diagram which looks very much like all other systems diagrams in that it consists of square boxes starting with an input from some source and ending up with an output.  A great deal of time can be wasted with such artwork and very seldom does it make any point with anybody reading the report. 

There’s also an increasing indication that our new proposal reports are far too lengthy and detailed. I even saw one which contained those forbidden phrases “value engineering” and “PERT – cost.”  For the benefit of those new to us, I expect all engineering done in our projects to have value. I expect the maximum effort to be made in the first place to make a thing producible and we will have nothing to do with PERT – cost studies in any operation with which I’m connected. 

P&W have a good substitute for PERT. They call it the critical root analysis program. Draw your own conclusions. 

We will continue to make charts in the old-fashioned manner, which means that they will be few in number and present things in a clear, sharp manner, and if we can’t do this, we won’t make a chart, for we obviously don’t understand the subject ourselves.

Clarence L. Johnson
Vice President
Advanced Development Projects

This article first appeared in the April 2017 Flight Test News.

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