Innovation as Mission
His prior Alabama posting gave the new chief technology officer for Boeing Co. a firm grounding in the sense of mission.
In 2011, Greg Hyslop (right), then general manager of Boeing Huntsville, joined fellow Boeing executives Mike Rinn (left) and Michael Lavan to introduce the company’s High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator, developed for the U.S. Army.
In July, Greg Hyslop was named chief technology officer of Boeing’s global operations. It was the next step in a long career with Boeing, which began in 1982 as a guidance and control engineer. Just prior to his appointment as the top technical person at Boeing, Hyslop spent the past eight years at the company’s Huntsville operations, and those years in Alabama provided important experiences and lessons that prepared him for his new role.
“I will always cherish the years I had in Huntsville and the programs I worked on and the customers I worked with,” says Hyslop, who is now based at Boeing headquarters in Chicago. “It’s simply a great place to do business, and it provided great preparation for this next step for me.”
In his new role, Hyslop oversees the development and implementation of the enterprise technology investment strategy, and his portfolio of responsibilities includes the companywide Boeing Engineering function; Boeing Research & Technology (BR&T), the company’s advanced central research and development organization, and Boeing Test & Evaluation (BT&E), the team that verifies and validates Boeing’s commercial and defense products.
In addition to serving as CTO, Hyslop also serves as vice president of Boeing Engineering, Test and Technology, overseeing more than 50,000 engineers around the world and partnering with the engineering leaders for Boeing business units, to ensure solutions that support programs across the enterprise. He also plays a key role in decisions that affect the technical integrity of Boeing products, services and processes.
Boeing celebrated its corporate centennial in July, and, as he takes on a new leadership role, Hyslop recognizes the significance of that milestone. “I feel a great responsibility to set us on a right course for the second century,” he says. “The first 10 years will be vital to our growth for the next 100 years. The aerospace industry has always been very competitive, and it still is today, if not more so. There’s always a drive to develop the best product and the best idea.”
During his tenure in Huntsville, Hyslop served as vice president and general manager of Boeing Research and Technology (BR&T), the company’s research and development organization, from 2013 to 2016. The time he spent with Alabama-based engineers and scientists taught him some valuable lessons about leadership that Hyslop says will serve him well in his new position.
“Some of the brightest engineers in the world are in Huntsville; the talent level is very high,” Hyslop says. “But that by itself is not enough to accomplish everything we needed to accomplish. The thing that’s great about Huntsville is that beyond talent, at the heart level, there’s a real commitment to the mission, a real unity that fuels and motivates people. That sense of unity for the mission really permeates the whole atmosphere of the city of Huntsville.”
For many of the projects he led in Alabama — which were mostly related to aerospace and defense — Hyslop says people rallied around the missions of protecting troops in combat situations and getting humans to Mars. After eight years of experiencing a spirit of collaboration around a common goal, Hyslop says he realizes it will be vital for him to instill in employees across the company that same feeling of significance with commercial projects as well.
“For people to really be successful at doing very difficult jobs, there’s got to be that sense of doing something important that really matters,” he says. In his new role, Hyslop, who holds a doctoral degree in science, will oversee projects in aerospace, defense and commercial lines of business, and he has already considered approaches for stimulating a sense of unity around the mission in each type of project.
For instance, Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is the world’s most fuel-efficient airplane. Since it entered service in 2011, 787s in service have collectively saved more than 7.7 billion pounds of fuel. Airlines report fuel savings of 20 to 25 percent over the airplanes replaced by the 787. Boeing employees, who continue to build 787s and develop new methods of environmentally efficient travel, can rally around the mission of saving energy, Hyslop says.
In addition, Hyslop plans to emphasize to team members the role they play in making travel available and accessible to people around the world, helping to open up cultures that have previously been isolated. Also, the 787’s fuel savings and fuel efficiency have allowed airlines to profitably operate new nonstop routes between city pairs that were previously impossible. The 787 has enabled the connection of more than 100 new city-pair routes, including Tokyo to Boston, London to San Jose, California, and San Francisco to Tel Aviv.
“In addition to the immediate sense of mission associated with defense and space, our projects are good for the environment and make it possible to connect people around the world, and that’s important for team members to understand,” Hyslop says. “The sense of being part of something bigger than yourself is so important in leading large organizations, especially in leading change across large organizations. And for the new generations coming into the workplace, it’s very important for them to see how their jobs fit into something bigger. Working on something that matters is really important to workers in younger generations.”
Not only did Hyslop take management lessons from Alabama, but he also took technical lessons. Huntsville-based engineers have been the minds behind some of the world’s most notable engineering feats — like the Saturn V rocket that launched the first men to the moon — and the city’s scientific community continues to focus on the basics, Hyslop says.
“Based on the type of work done in Huntsville, I learned that really solid systems engineering up front is vital,” he says. “It’s an unnatural act for man to fly in a vehicle that’s heavier than air. We have hard problems to solve. But hard problems are solved all the time in Huntsville, such as trying to hit a bullet with a bullet.”
To solve such problems, “you simply have to be the world’s best at systems engineering,” Hyslop adds. For instance, designing an airplane requires the interaction of many different subsystems to make one system work. Hyslop’s time in Huntsville reinforced the importance of meticulously managing the development of many different subsystems, he says.
In addition, accomplishing difficult systems work requires the ability to create models and simulations of those systems to see how they will all work together. “That’s where Huntsville is very good; modeling and simulation is a way of life there,” Hyslop says. “We put the Boeing research and development program in Huntsville because of the work done there.”
Being the “world’s best” is easier said than done, but Hyslop is committed that it’s an important goal for the company’s success. And after eight years in Alabama, he believes it’s possible.
Nancy Mann Jackson is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She is based in Huntsville.