Stepping Back is the First Step to Mission Accomplished with Stephanie Hill, EVP at Lockheed Martin
A behind-the-scenes look at what made Lockheed Martin the company whose technology the world relies on
A rogue, dead, spy satellite is plummeting toward Earth. At impact, it will cause devastation — a toxic spill could cover an area the size of two football fields. This satellite has to be taken out.
This is not a retread Hollywood movie, with a superhero soaring in to save the day. No, this actually happened. But there was no superhero or savior from another planet to fly in and redirect the satellite.
Instead, a company and its team were tasked to ensure a missile would strike the satellite’s fuel tank while the satellite was moving at 17,000 miles an hour. The satellite was the size of a school bus, and the fuel tank was the size of one seat on a bus. So how did we avoid the inevitable? And what company did we trust with the mission?
It was Lockheed Martin, a company with a legacy spanning more than a century which includes providing the technology required to ensure security and freedom around the world. And it was the Executive Vice President of Rotary and Mission systems, Stephanie Hill, and her team that was tasked in 2008 to adapt its missile defense system to take out that satellite careening toward Earth. So the question is how is it possible for a company like Lockheed Martin to build an environment where everyone can stay calm and encourage a culture of stepping back even at tense perilous moments?
“Companies can get caught up in their own technology,” Hill says. “They can get caught up in their own technology. They can get caught up in their own products. And if you do, that is a recipe for disaster.”
Hill, who as a young girl was planning to become an accountant, always wanted to make a difference. The switch to computer science and engineering opened up a career that overflowed with opportunity to make an impact.
“When I found Lockheed Martin, my first assignment was to work on the mark 41 vertical launching system, which revolutionized the way the U.S.Navy fights and is still relevant today,” Hill says. “I found a place where there is a continual opportunity to make a difference.”
At Lockheed Martin, Hill not only found opportunities to explore her passions, she found opportunities to grow and push the envelope and she encouraged dissenting voices.
“When I’ve looked at some transformational leaders… they have often been outsiders to the industry,” Hill says. “They asked all kinds of questions that you might’ve thought were dumb questions… But because they did this and they showed that kind of vulnerability, it allowed the whole organization to do that. We’re really working on creating that space where it is clear that it’s not just that you have a voice at the table, but we’re thirsty for your voice at the table, especially if it doesn’t agree with us.”
Diversity sharpens perspective and therefore, creates an environment of increased innovation. And innovation is a necessary weapon in Lockheed Martin’s arsenal in order for it to constantly serve to support the protection of the United States and its allies.
Perpetual innovation to create solutions for customers — like the U.S. military — is essential at Lockheed Martin and constantly innovating to meet customers’ needs is only possible because of established trust.
“Imagine if you’ve got a group of brilliant people and the environment is one where there’s no trust; people are feeling like, well, I’ve got this great idea, but I know they’re not going to listen to it,” Hill says. “Imagine the innovation in that team or that organization. And then imagine an organization where there is trust out the wazoo. You would trust your team members implicitly, and you know that they want to hear your perspective. They want to hear your ideas.”
But how can you create a sense of belonging while also creating a drive for disruption that both come together? Hill says Lockheed Martin that starts by being willing to step back and listen to its customers.
So, we know the spy satellite gets taken out in the end. That’s not a movie spoiler. It’s history and honors have already been awarded. The real question is how does a company get to mission accomplished in such a pressure-filled situation? It is not only about the technical details, but the company’s culture of disrupting itself that’s bringing amazing results.
To find out how more about how Lockheed Martin is putting that idea into practice, tune into Business X factors.
Business X factors is produced by Mission.org and brought to you by Hyland.
For over a decade, Hyland has been named a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Content Services Platforms, leading the way to help people get the information they need when and where they need it. More than half of 2019 Fortune 100 companies rely on Hyland to help them create more meaningful connections with the people they serve. When your focus is on the people you serve, Hyland stands behind you. Hyland is your X factor for better performance. Go to Hyland.com/insights to learn more.