The dependence of DARPA on high quality program managers mirrors the obsession with “talent” in other disciplines

When talking to people about how DARPA works you repeatedly hear “DARPA depends on amazing program managers.” Assuming this isn’t a Suitcase Handle Word (and I suspect it’s not) why is this the case?

PMs don’t get much structure when they’re designing and executing programs. The ‘framework’ DARPA PMs use to create a program is by modeling the tech council. The best DARPA program managers are the ones who can look at an entire literature in an area and notice a systemic bias which involves a very strong ability to think for yourself and go up and down The ladder of abstraction.

The pattern that The things that make “great talent” in high variance industries boils down to the ability to successfully make things happen under a lot of uncertainty matches DARPA strongly.

It suggests that DARPA is not very systematized. When ‘talent’ isn’t code for ‘specialized training’ it means the role or industry has not been systematized.


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