Executive VP of Lockheed Martin Spaceproviding advanced technology systems for national security, civilian and commercial customers.
Imagine feeling the vibrations of a spacecraft preparing to launch into a universe filled with unexplored planets, stars and galaxies. Being close to a launch is a dream for many and something I’ve had the opportunity to experience multiple times in my career. The adrenaline you get when you know you’re part of something that makes a positive contribution to how we live on Earth — and beyond — is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
That feeling hasn’t gone away during my career, but the energy behind it has evolved and progressed as the space industry has adopted new approaches, such as digital transformation. For example, our team used augmented reality and smart manufacturing tools during the phases of a recent project involving NASA’s landmark Artemis I.
And yet you don’t have to go to the moon to use digital tools. Digital transformation should be central to the mind of any business, and it can mean different things to different industries. Right now, anyone can get their hands on digital tools, but what’s a hammer if you don’t know how to use it?
I believe it is essential to know when and how digital tools can be used strategically taking your business into the future– Provide speed and agility along the way. I encourage you to embrace mission-driven transformation, which can cut across every facet of your business and change the way you work, design, test and manufacture your technologies, products and services.
From my experience, there are three key components to successfully implementing a major digital transformation that can help ensure that it is not just a tool, but intertwined with the fabric of the corporate culture.
1. Walk side by side with your customers.
Lean in and really listen to your customers’ needs. Emerging threats and an evolving geopolitical landscape mean our customers need a greater sense of urgency. Plus, really hearing their priorities means your team can provide smarter solutions and take risks in the right places.
My leadership approach is to take my clients on this journey. This approach can help accelerate projects and make it easier to leverage digital transformation to accelerate your business. In my case, as the aerospace industry draws in more competitors, the real race is against time. And to find ways to gain the upper hand in time, you need to embrace tools, technologies and systems that allow you to get products into the field faster than ever before.
2. Use digital tools as a test bed.
Testing, learning, running: that is the lifeblood of realizing innovation. Before putting technology into orbit or deploying capabilities to a client’s mission, invest in proving its success. And for some technologies, the best way to gain insights and improvements is to put them into orbit.
A key priority for your team should be a consistent cadence for technology demonstrations where you can manage risk by testing new capabilities and scaling up later. It also confirms to your customer that you have taken the time to pressure test the technology through a variety of options and applications. The advantage is the advantage you get from delivering new, robust solutions, while at the same time instilling confidence in the many possibilities in your offering.
3. Keep your ‘why’ front and center.
The ingenuity that many of us use every day, such as water filtration systems, scratch-resistant eyewear, cochlear implants, memory foam and more, stem directly from discoveries in the aerospace industry. This is in addition to innovations in understanding weather patterns so you know when to expect snow or sun, as well as GPS signals to help you find the nearest coffee shop.
These benefits also go a step further by providing military communications and information via space, land, sea and air to help bring people home. Imagine what else we can achieve if we continue to not only change the way we do business, but also revolutionize the future missions we support. Not a day goes by that your team doesn’t think about the ‘why’ behind what you’re doing – with a sharp focus on your customers’ missions.
Ask yourself what your ‘why’ is for your teams and the missions you fulfill? And, most importantly, how will you transform your business to better pursue it?
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