Robert Lightfoot, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space as well as a two-time Wash100 Award winner, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz about his strategic growth goals as EVP with the company as well as his insights into addressing the challenges of federal talent recruitment and the business side of innovation during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.
“At Lockheed Martin Space, we are transforming our business while still delivering the value that customers have come to expect of our company and our rich history in space. From digital transformation to technology demonstrations that lay the groundwork for future innovations, we are evolving to better deliver on the future needs of our customers and the space industry as a whole.”
You can read the full interview with Robert Lightfoot below:
ExecutiveBiz: Congrats on becoming the executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space in January! Why did you want to take on this role, and what were the attributes of this company that attracted you to Lockheed Martin? What do you hope to accomplish as EVP and what are your strategic goals for growth?
Robert Lightfoot: “It is truly an honor to take on this role and continue working with the talented people across Lockheed Martin. Prior to the official announcement, I was actively supporting our missions through previous roles leading our Operations organization for Space.
Before that I was our Vice President of Strategy and Business Development. Through those roles, I learned a lot about the company and look forward to applying this knowledge to help us move forward as we evolve the future of Space.
For me, making the transition to Lockheed Martin after a 30-year career at NASA was a natural shift because of how mission-focused the employees are. With more than 22,000 teammates, we are committed to achieving our customers’ missions while also looking for new ways to innovate.
What that translates to is supporting missions that are ultimately designed to protect, connect or explore. That also means we have a diverse portfolio where our employees can push the boundaries of innovation, and they never stop thinking about how to add value.
Since becoming EVP, I have kept these areas in mind but have also prioritized a focus on speed. Our customers are demanding that we move with a greater sense of urgency because of emerging threats and a changing geopolitical landscape. Which means, we must shift into a new gear to move faster. I like to say ‘We are all competing with time.’
To meet these needs, we are adopting a new way of working, but also the technologies we integrate into our systems by leveraging overall digital and business transformation to deliver faster than ever before.
Another major focal point for me has been establishing a cadence for technology demonstrations. There are many things we can do internally to prove out a technology long before we deploy those capabilities directly on a customer mission. The more we can do to manage risk, the better off Lockheed Martin will be in supporting our customers.
When I can integrate a new offering into a customer mission, and show that we have already flown it on orbit or tested it through a different application, it gives us a tremendous advantage for delivering new, robust solutions.
What that means is we are always evaluating how we can leverage our internal investments to demonstrate things ahead of the need so our customers don’t have to start at zero when solving tough problems.”
ExecutiveBiz: How does Lockheed Martin ensure long-term success for your workforce to drive value for your employees as you continue to face the uphill challenge to recruit and retain the best talent in the federal marketplace?
Robert Lightfoot: “Talent is a huge challenge across our entire industry – not only as the space industry continues to grow, but also because the need for a cleared workforce is paramount for national security. We have made recruiting and retention a top priority for some time, and the last two years have also challenged us to think of new ways to engage our employees.
First and foremost, we are a mission-first organization. I’ve always found that if we can get our people engaged in understanding the mission of what we’re doing for our nation and warfighters, they respond. And we have seen our teams are highly motivated by that cause.
When I think of my own journey and interest in joining the aerospace and defense sector, I think about how I was hooked early on when I saw my first rocket launch in college. It was then that I made up my mind about what career I wanted to have. In that same vein, when leaders can work to connect employees to their own “launch moment” as a part of their everyday job, we create that connection.
We can’t stop there. After everyone understands the mission, we look at how we prepare and grow our workforce for the future – giving them the right tools and technology to be effective and productive. We also pride ourselves on creating a flexible work environment – that not only creates opportunities for a variety of different work schedules, but also accommodations for a blend of in-person and remote work options.
One example that comes to mind is an ongoing initiative called ‘SCIF Life’, which is where we are working to transform what it means to work in classified areas. The fact is you can’t do classified work from home.
Since over 50 percent of our workforce require a security clearance, we have to work to address the changing work environment and expectations while also meeting contract requirements. Historically, it has been difficult to work in SCIF – without tools you are used to using like cell phones or video calling platforms.
So, we have been implementing a variety of improvements, in lockstep with our customers, to make it more attractive to work within the classified environment.”
ExecutiveBiz: We often discuss innovation from the technical or capability side. What are some of the unique challenges that you’ve seen on the business side of innovation that haven’t been addressed or discussed enough?
Robert Lightfoot: “I would agree with you that there is a unique – and equally important – element of “business innovation” that can be a huge contributor to the success of a company. For us, we’re looking at our business models with a new viewpoint to discover how Lockheed Martin Space can operate in arenas outside of standard government procurement models.
This can mean a variety of things – like new business partners, new suppliers, or new industries all together – but it comes down to the same idea: How can we use small innovations to change the trajectory of our own company’s missions?
One way I have been encouraging my team to think about this is to take some of our capabilities and offer them ‘as-a-service.’ We’ve discussed sectors like firefighting as-a-service where we take our existing capabilities and apply them to a different use than they were intended.
We can pull significant data from space assets today and provide some data-driven intelligence to those who need it in situations like wildfire mitigation. Another example is looking at creating a lunar infrastructure – like putting communication satellites around the Moon. However, the real question is related to the business side of all of this and how we sell the capabilities to a customer in the future.
I recognize these services are not based on new technology, but they are a new business model for us. That’s where real business innovation complements the innovation of technology to drive change. I would put Lockheed Martin against anyone in our industry because of our deep heritage and expertise in this industry and the types of missions we have had the unique privilege of supporting.
Our mission partners and customers are addressing some serious challenges. They’re looking for great innovative solutions from just about anyone who can bring them to the table – it’s our job to deliver just that.
As we go forward, our goal at Lockheed Martin Space is to make sure we are bringing innovative solutions to our mission partners and customers. This can be in new sectors and even as we continue to grow our international presence – we are always looking to make sure we are supporting our vision to protect, connect and explore with the end goal of bringing people home — whether it’s a warfighter, an astronaut or a civilian caught in severe weather.
That’s our mission and I’m excited for the opportunity to lead this team in delivering that kind of security to our nation and allies.”
To hear more from Robert Lightfoot, be sure to follow him on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/robert-lightfoot-lm-space/