Organizationally, Dynetics is “very highly matrixed. Half or more of our folks are working for other divisions or units,” says King. “We are not afraid to seek experts elsewhere in the company and pull them in. Our senior technologists are very good at asking hard questions, and can roll up their sleeves and talk solutions. No one here is afraid to get into a good conversation—young and experienced in a room together.”
In addition to a rigorous selection process for new hires, the company runs the “Dynetics University,” which comprises 8-12 classes taught by employees in subjects as diverse as radar signals and ethical hacking, he says. There are approximately 120 graduates every quarter, and the classes change as employees come up with other ideas. “Continuing to educate people is what drives our innovation.”
One reason for the transition to products is to avoid competing for service contracts where rates are too low. “In the past our business has mostly been engineering services, but in recent years we have being moving into products, getting more into integrated systems and becoming a prime,” says King. “We have grown to be large enough and broad enough that we can provide integrated systems,” along with services, he says.
Dynetics builds instrumentation and telemetry for testing missiles, aircraft and UAVs. The company developed the attitude control system for Bigelow Aerospace's inflatable space habitat and built FASTSat, a small technology satellite that has been in orbit since November 2010. Its role on the Stratolaunch program shows that Dynetics “has some skin in the game,” says King. “It is clearly an area where we are taking a little more risk.”
The company does not see itself as a volume producer. “We are more a prototyping shop, building 10 or 100 copies of something . . . rather than making and selling widgets,” King says. Nor does the company see itself as a low-cost producer. “We value excellence more than giving people a bargain.”
The transition to integrating systems and developing products “is definitely a culture shift,” says King. “There are areas where we probably always will be in services, as it is a great business base. Our products are typically outside of the areas where we do a lot of services, to avoid organization conflicts of interest.
“It is a difficult transition to make as we grow from a small to a large business . . . [but] we are stepping up our game,” King says. “The best way to find more investment money is to grow at a reasonable rate per year. That is what we are trying to do now.”