When aviation technology firms Lockheed and Martin Marietta merged in 1995 to form the Lockheed Martin Corp., the new company faced organizational challenges from the outset. The two companies, both leaders in their fields, had to combine structurally. Even more complex, though, was the consolidation of dozens of distinct, practically self-governing business units.
“We were what you would call decentralized,” said Candice Phelan, director of learning services at Lockheed Martin. “The business units made a lot of their own decisions. (There was) very little oversight in terms of involvement in their details. That was true of everything, from new business to engineering, program management and training.”
Following the merger, Lockheed Martin saved more than $2 billion in operating costs, but company leaders felt they could save even more through additional restructuring. In 1999, the company conducted a study that spanned the enterprise. Corporate education, which was operated within the separate divisions, reflected the configuration of the company itself. The study revealed a great deal of duplication among the business units’ learning offerings.
“The as-is state told us that we had 100,000 courses, 43 learning management systems and e-learning cropping up in almost all of the business units,” said Phelan, who added that they discovered 73 interviewing courses in this inventory. “We had business units paying in duplicate for some of the exact same programs. At the same time, we knew that no training function had enough dollars to meet all the needs they were being asked to meet. We were wasting a lot of resources.”
Following the study, Lockheed Martin moved toward greater overall alignment, Phelan said. “The company made a real strategic shift to move to more of a mixture to do a variety of things, but mostly to look for potential savings and sharing of best practices across the corporation. Training was a key element of that.” For Phelan and her team, the specific objectives were to create a common learning culture, reduce duplication and roll out a unified learning infrastructure.
They tackled the learning infrastructure initially, eventually settling on THINQ to provide a single LMS for the entire company. “We took that on first, because it was pretty concrete,” Phelan said. “I’m not saying it was easy, but it was concrete. We could touch and feel the 43 different LMSs, and we could then engage the people who ran the different LMSs for Lockheed Martin into designing and configuring a single learning management system. Part of the secret, I think, was getting business unit involvement from the very beginning. We had a four-week configuration work session, and people from those 43 business units participated. At the same time, we could negotiate centrally for a really good price.”
Lockheed Martin’s corporate training division also promoted the use of new learning modalities such as coaching and e-learning when and where appropriate. Prior to the revision and restructuring of educational offerings, business units relied primarily on classroom-based training. “To accomplish that, we selected preferred suppliers, with the average discount being about 50 percent,” Phelan said. “It entices the business units to want to use them.” Web education in particular was simplified and made more cost-effective by moving to one system with content supplied primarily through NETg. “Instead of each business unit having its own e-learning Web site, we rolled out one e-learning virtual classroom across the corporation,” she said.
Although learning has been somewhat centralized, Lockheed Martin’s highly specialized business units continue to have a great deal of control over delivery and content. “Like most other large corporations, we have a variety of different business sites, and each one is its own profit-and-loss entity,” Phelan said. “Then, of course, we have some central training and development, like most large companies. That’s a business strategy question for any large company: What do you centralize? What do you oversee? What do you let the business units or the P&L centers do on their own?”
One particular realm that Phelan and her team manage entirely is corporate learning, which has grown substantially during her tenure. “We really did need a stronger corporate strategy in terms of leadership development and leadership behaviors,” she said. “We were training, in our executive training programs, about 1,000 mid-level executives and above per year. We said, ‘That’s just not enough.’ The corporation really put a lot of emphasis in this area and raised that to about 4,000 a year. Every manager and above should attend some kind of executive development about every four years. Previously, it might have been every 10 or 15 years.”
One unique feature of leadership development at Lockheed Martin is what Phelan calls “accelerated learning,” which moves top prospects throughout 30 business units and 900 locations. This program establishes a common organizational ethos among leaders of different backgrounds, and shares responsibility for their development between the business units and the corporate level. “We conceptualize them as corporate assets,” Phelan said. “We made them a pool of corporate assets and started moving them around to create this common culture.”
Brian Summerfield is associate editor for Chief Learning Officer magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com.