>By: BRUNO, MICHAEL, Aviation Week & Space Technology, 00052175, 12/1/2008, Vol. 169, Issue 21
Aerospace and defense (A&D) program managers should be fired–and rehired–in the regular course of business.
That idea is key to Lockheed Martin’s general manager for the massive Joint Strike Fighter program, Daniel Crowley, whose short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing (Stovl) variant’s first flight garnered the top Aviation Week A&D Programs award this month. The award–the last of six presented here to 53 land and sea programs considered at the conference–was given to the F-35 Stovl for pursuing innovative program management (PM) while still driving forward a relatively disciplined project.
Crowley’s notion of asking leaders to re-examine their programs as if they were replacing themselves seemed to resonate with the conference audience as a shockingly simple exercise in re-visiting classic PM. “We ask them to go through the revolving door,” Crowley said.
At the same time, for the Stovl flight (and the JSF program in general) the Lockheed-led industry and government team has come to rely on a so-called “digital thread,” or data-sharing and communications architecture, which transcends corporate or country borders so that more than 6,000 engineers worldwide could work together to design the F-35 jumpjet and fly it–conventionally–within three weeks of a deadline set 18 months before.
The annual conference seeks to disseminate PM best practices, with an advisory group recognizing model programs across various categories. Winners are lauded for value creation, managing complexity, operational and organizational performance, and of course, meeting requirement, cost and schedule milestones. Meeting the last set of criteria is increasingly hard to do–as government auditors, critics and analysts have archived worsening waste, failure and even fraud in U.S. A&D acquisition (AW&ST Nov. 17, p. 19).
The digital thread, with a backbone provided by Siemens, is not unprecedented and is no panacea–indeed, executives acknowledge limitations and the time and effort it took to set up. While it’s helpful for designers in more than 30 product teams worldwide to be able to hand off plans to one another, Crowley said the system’s evolution hopefully will incorporate second-generation engineering that is one or more steps removed from the assembly line itself, such as how to preset parts.
But the JSF’s expansion of a global data and communications system conquers new territory as increasingly large and complex programs face growing expectations to deliver on their promises. “The global delivery system is in an infant stage,” Crowley noted. “It will mean something to be on the JSF network. Exactly what that means, we don’t know….“
“There were some trying moments at times,” admitted Tim Nichols, Siemens’ managing director of A&D global marketing. Nichols is confident that more programs and even the military itself will have to adopt such collaboration techniques–and Siemens is pushing hard for the business. As with the JSF, defense agencies will have to adopt an enterprise approach to meet their MRO needs as globalization both provides and resolves sustainment issues. “That, quite frankly, is going to be the norm,” he claimed in an interview on the conference sidelines. “That’s the way we’re going to see it in the future.“
Regardless of whether the JSF-Siemens product lifecycle management software system proves to be the forerunner or something else comes along, competitors like Boeing Integrated Defense Systems’ weapons programs portfolio group also see the advantage of such interactive coordination.
Nevertheless, most successful PM efforts highlighted at the conference echoed “classic” management techniques. Winners espoused the value of closely teaming with government customers; advanced preparation and planning program execution during bidding; worker incentives; the commitment of corporate leadership to the program’s success; and, perhaps notably, the willingness to re-use proven PM practices.
“You want a great new idea,” Crowley asked rhetorically, “read an old book.“
By Michael Bruno, San Diego
“Copyright 2008 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. http://www.mcgraw-hill.com