September was the first time Dr. Dana Keoki Jackson returned to KAIST since his visit last April, when he talked to KAIST students about the technologies of particular interest to Lockheed Martin at the time.
This time round Dr. Jackson focused his speech on the leadership challenges commonly faced in the aerospace and defense industry and “how that translates into different approaches in management.”
Dr. Jackson’s lecture was largely composed of three parts: he introduced the audience to the aerospace and defense industry and what uniquely defines its systems. He then elaborated on what is required to avoid failure and gave his own perspective and insight on mission success that he had accumulated over his long-spanning career.
Aerospace and defense systems are not just defined by their high “dollar value” and criticality of the missions they were built to carry out, but also their sheer scale. Such large scale projects are inevitably complex, both in terms of the infrastructure and the carefully thought-out organization of people required to build the infrastructure to carry out what may seem like a simple mission to, say, send a payload to the international space station.
According to Dr. Jackson, “It takes the efforts of very large numbers of people … engineers of all stripes. But it’s not just engineers. It’s people from all kinds of different functions … you need the finance managers, you need the operations leads, you need the people that are doing production, managing supply chain, [and] manufacturing.” He added, “These are not the kinds of projects that happen with a single engineer working on their laptop or a small group of people working in a garage [like you may think about software today].” It is only when these individual components of the organization come together in a perfect and seamless manner that mission success can be achieved.
However, Dr. Jackson mentioned that equating mission success to preventing failure — preventing spectacular explosions — does not actually guarantee “mission success”. He said, “In striving to prevent failure it’s possible to put so many roadblocks in place that the mission literally never gets off the ground.” Dr. Jackson believes that mission success should also be judged on whether cost and schedule objectives are actually met: “It is not just enough to have technological success with the ... delivery of satellite or aircraft. If you fail to miss cost or schedule objectives, that can be disastrous as well.”
Nevertheless, that does not mean precautions should not be placed in these systems at all. Aerospace and defense systems should be inherently robust and imbued with fault tolerance. Furthermore, one should strive to architect processes alongside the product itself, to detect faults and anomalies — so that one individual’s mistake does not jeopardize the success of the mission. In doing so, management should try to proactively anticipate and rid processes of potential barriers to mission success, based on current data and past experiences. All of these elements are part of the mission success culture prevalent throughout the organization, a crucial factor that has allowed the United Launch Alliance, which Lockheed Martin is a member of, to have a “100% mission success rate” since its inception.
Speaking from his own experiences in both engineering and management roles, Dr. Jackson proceeded to talk about some of attributes he found to have assured mission success during his career. He emphasized the need to have a firm grounding in one’s fundamentals despite the recent focus on breadth in industry. He reminded the audience, “Those who have firm grounding in the fundamentals end up the best systems engineers.” He characterized fundamentals as being able to do the so-called “back-of-the-envelope calculations” to figure out macroscopic details such as how much power is required to carry out the function of a sub-system.
People in management positions however, especially first time managers, end up making the mistake of doing all of the work by themselves, micromanaging every detail without fully leveraging the resources of the team being managed. Such managers often prioritize their own work over that other members of the team are depending on: that crucial piece of paperwork without which other team members would not be able to function properly. “The success of your team is your reward as a manager.”
|▲ Lockheed Martin CTO Dr. Keoki Jackson