Marion Kennedy, senior vice president of Intelligence Market at LMI, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz regarding her transition to join the company last October as well as her insights into the impact that AI and machine learning capabilities are having on the U.S. military and more during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.
You can read the full interview with Marion Kennedy below.
ExecutiveBiz: With the influence of emerging technologies impacting every aspect of business, how has your company been able to drive digital transformation efforts to stay ahead of innovation in the federal landscape for yourself and your customers?
Marion Kennedy: “LMI made the choice a few years ago to invest in an operating model that we believe gets ahead of our customers’ needs before requirements are generated and RFPs are published.
Our customers want to move faster (especially when it comes to acquiring technology solutions), so we’ve developed The Forge, a team of experts in software prototyping that serves as our in-house technology accelerator.
We are using this accelerator to bring prototypes and high-fidelity mock-ups of potential software solutions to client meetings before they’ve asked industry to solve a particular problem.
We then take that feedback and quickly iterate on what our customers’ reactions are, to ensure we are meeting their needs in an agile, rapid manner. By building before the funding and before the requirements, we are incorporating emerging technologies into our solutions and doing so with a focus on reducing time-to-value for customers.
We are thinking about how to incorporate tech solutions in every area of our business and our customers’ operations. For example, we know that talent management is a focus area for many members of the Intelligence Community.
We are actively prototyping software solutions that can help our IC partners meet those challenges, and doing so in a way that works within our agency customers’ existing IT environments.”
ExecutiveBiz: Congrats on recently joining LMI! Why did you want to join the company and what were the attributes of its mission that attracted you to the role? What do you hope to accomplish with the company?
Marion Kennedy: “First, LMI rests on a foundation 60+ years in the making. With all the change in the government consulting space, an organization with over half a century of staying power must be doing something right.
As I considered coming to LMI, I came to appreciate the culture, which I believe is born from that legacy of starting as a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (or FFRDC) back in the 1960s.
That passion for discovery, for solving problems for the federal government, for innovative research by PhD-level scientists, engineers, supply chain experts, etc. places LMI in a different category than many of the companies that provide government consulting services.
What has become apparent since joining LMI is that this unique culture extends to how we think about our people. Many organizations say that their people are their top resource and first concern, but I’ve found that at most firms other considerations like hitting profit goals are often really top of mind for government consulting leaders.
Sure, LMI wants to remain profitable, but I truly believe it’s because the people at LMI want to ensure that we can continue doing the work for our customers—if LMI is healthy, we can keep doing what we’re doing, which is having a positive impact on our federal government and therefore a positive impact on our nation.
And if we’re financially healthy, it gives us an opportunity to invest in the best talent in the industry, because if we are going to solve those challenges, we need the best minds to do it.
Finally, I’ve been really impressed by LMI’s approach to attracting this top talent. It isn’t just about money or flexible time off policies, it’s also about ensuring diversity of experience, thought, gender, race, etc. at all levels of the company.
LMI is so committed to this concept of DEI&A that the compensation of our senior leadership team is tied not just to meeting financial goals, but also DEI&A goals. I like that LMI ‘walks the walk’ and doesn’t just ‘talk the talk’ when it comes to a commitment to DEI&A, and I think that’s because we all actually believe that a diverse organization is an effective organization for ourselves and our customers.”
ExecutiveBiz: How does your company 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?
Marion Kennedy: “Recruiting and retaining talent in the federal government consulting business is tough, but doing so for the IC is incredibly challenging. The labor pool is small and the competition for talent is incredibly fierce, so LMI has had to really focus on differentiating ourselves from our competition, and I think we have.
Last year we won the Washington Post’s Top Workplaces to Work award for 2021, as rated by our employees themselves. I think LMI earned that designation because we know that if we are going to attract the best minds, we have to take care of our people like no one else.
That’s why we offer every employee up to $15,000 per year in tuition reimbursement, we offer flexible time off with no accrual requirements, we invest in health and wellness programs, we care deeply about DEI&A, and more.
But beyond our benefits, I think what sets LMI apart is our desire to attract and retain colleagues who want to build careers. We hire talent to join LMI for the long term, invest in them, and create an environment where they can thrive.
We are not a staffing agency filling positions on contracts. We take great care to align our people to customer environments where they can contribute their best. If an employee is looking for a new opportunity, we work collaboratively to identify a new program. I think people see that and I think that’s why we have one of the lowest attrition rates among government consulting firms.”
ExecutiveBiz: With artificial intelligence and machine learning impacting most industries and the U.S. military dramatically as we move forward, what has impressed you the most about the technology’s capabilities to improve decision-making across the federal sector and all areas?
Marion Kennedy: “I’m most impressed by non-traditional uses of these technologies. We are seeing tremendous opportunities for AI/ML deployments to support acquisition decision-making, talent retention, DEI&A, lifecycle sustainment modeling, budgeting, and more.
For example, we’ve developed prototypes out of our software accelerator, The Forge, that enable federal leaders to essentially click a button and model the impact a continuing resolution will have on their agency.
I think leaders in every department in every agency should be asking themselves how to incorporate this technology into what they are doing—not just on the operational side, but also on the facilities management, financial, legal, etc. sides of the house as well.”
ExecutiveBiz: In recent years, what are some of the biggest improvements you’ve seen in the way we talk and think about innovation across the federal sector since the rise of cybersecurity, AI/ML, 5G and other emerging technologies?
Marion Kennedy: “The IC faced some really unique struggles during the pandemic—the IC has a ‘no-fail, 24/7’ mission requirement. Much of the IC’s work has to be done on-site and in secure facilities because of its classified nature, yet so many had to work from home during the pandemic.
I think an untold story is how flexible, adaptive, and dedicated the IC was during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how the infrastructure that they built to be able to handle those challenges has changed how they’ve thought about the future of intelligence workspaces and the workforce itself.
We are seeing some of that change in thinking evident in how the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is building out their new St. Louis facility—they are thinking about a hybrid, blended workforce that is capable of working within differing classification levels in the same facility.
I think the IC will be looking to NGA as a model of how to incorporate new technologies to enable a more flexible work environment while maintaining security.”