Lockheed Martin’s Marillyn Hewson: 2018 CEO Of The Year

Marillyn Hewson
Passionate, poised and relentlessly methodical, Lockheed Martin’s Marillyn Hewson has proved to be the right leader for risky times. And now she’s Chief Executive’s 2018 CEO of the Year.

And that’s the thing. Because there are great companies, Wells Fargo comes to mind most recently, that had a terrific culture and a really great heritage, and then something went terribly wrong. How do you continue to monitor that, and how do you stay engaged? And how do you communicate that to 100,000 people?

Well, I do a quarterly webcast for one thing, so at the end of every quarter, I report out on the financials, I report out on achievements and I talk about the things that are important. We put in something that we call next-gen LM, but it’s basically a framework for the corporation and for employees to think about the things that are important to us. Starting first and foremost with our core values, do what’s right, respect others, perform with excellence.

If we do those things, if we meet our U.S. Government commitments to our customers by performing with excellence, if we treat one another and our suppliers and our customers with dignity and respect, if we do what’s right, that we have a foundation of integrity in our business—the rest of the business will take care of itself, and that is, to me, foundational for a company.

“Every business problem I’ve ever faced where things went awry, I would chalk up to miscommunication or lack of communication.”

I talk a lot about how we as a company have to make hard choices and decisions that allow us to remain competitive. [For example,] we’ve got to do some restructuring in our organization—maybe it means we’ve got to shut down a site; other times we’re increasing in another area, but it’s important to help people know there’s rationale for why we’re doing the things we’re doing.

Lockheed Martin’s stock performance under Hewson’s tenure

Every business problem I’ve ever faced where things went awry, I would chalk up to miscommunication or lack of communication. Listening and responding is what makes the difference in any business. Some people find it tedious to keep saying the same things over and over again. I think you’ve got to do that; you’ve got to constantly do that.

Do you feel that being an insider gave you a leg up when you got into the top job? Did you grok the culture here in a way that maybe somebody from the outside didn’t?

Yes, I really do think it makes a difference to come up through the organization. I can put myself in people’s shoes. I had worked in four of the five business areas when I took over as CEO. So not only did I understand the business, know what our products were and what we were trying to achieve and the strategies of those various businesses, but I knew a lot of people.

Are you able to reach down into the organization in ways that perhaps somebody might not that didn’t have your network?

I don’t call somebody in Fort Worth and say, “What’s really happening on the F-35?” That’s not my style. But I do get a lot of unsolicited input from people. I can’t tell you how many e-mails I get every day from employees, and I respond to every single one of them. If they take the initiative to send me an e-mail, they deserve a response.

We’ve built a very strong trust relationship on my leadership team. Not long after I took over as CEO, I put us all on the same incentive plan, so it’s not one business area competing against another. We’re all set up to achieve the financial, operational and strategic objectives of the company that we commit to our board of directors and to the shareholders that we’re going to do; we do it collectively. That’s built a lot more collaboration across the businesses.

How much time do you spend working on the business as opposed to in the business?

The first thing I do every year, September–October, is lay out the business rhythm for the coming year. So we’re operating on the business rhythm that we set up back in October of last year. It involves outlining when the quarterly reviews are with the businesses. We have a monthly meeting with my leadership team, with a dinner the night before and then a full day on strategy.

What are we doing on talent? That’s outlined for the year. We have a strategic planning meeting that we outline for the year; we have strategic business reviews throughout the year on certain lines of business. We have new business reviews on things we’re pursuing, current business opportunities. We compete for things like the advanced piloting system, the training system for pilots, things like that. We come together and we look at how is that going? What kind of help does the team need; how are we pursuing that to win it?

So that rhythm gets outlined and everybody then can fill in their rhythm behind. I want to get it out early so they can plan on it.

Then I also outline what my international travel is. There are certain things I do every year, certain conferences, certain air shows I attend. Then within that, what are certain countries I want to get to? Then countries ask me to come do things, like come speak in the UAE to the Global Aerospace Summit. I round that out with customer meetings while I’m there to make the most of my time in-country.

Last year, I had 12 international trips; maybe the year before was 14. I try to get out to our major facilities around the country as well. I probably travel 40 to 50 percent of my time.

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