Market Leader

Vol. 17 // 2021

Ai and machine learning concept stock photo containing intelligence and copyright Tzido Gallery via Creative Market

Industry: Federal Government Consulting

Location: Tysons, Virginia

An interview with Joshua Wilson, Senior Vice President, Service Lines & Technology at LMI

On LMI, Its Mission, and How It Got Where It Is Today

In 1961, influenced by the advice of then Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, a small team in the Pentagon stood up LMI—an organization “to bring the best minds to bear on solving our government’s most complex logistics management problems.” Since then, LMI has evolved into a robust government and defense consultancy with deep expertise in logistics and a broad range of digital and analytic solutions, and management advisory services for multiple areas of government.

“When our government founded us, they really thought about that through the lens of policy—do we have the right policies to ensure we’re driving the outcomes that we want from an enterprise perspective?” says Josh Wilson, the senior vice president, service lines & technology at LMI. “We continue to provide world class research and policy expertise. It’s a huge part of our DNA, but today’s LMI has digital expertise infused in everything we do, and this shows up in the solutions we deliver. We also execute large complex programs that support the Army Data and Analytic Platforms effort under PEO-EIS.”

Although the company has seen tremendous growth since its inception, LMI has kept its mission clear: enable positive transformation and progress for our federal and defense agencies. This mission inspires and resonates deeply with its people.

“What hasn’t changed is our focus on practicality. We want to come forward with ideas that can be implemented,” says Wilson. “People come here because they want to have a real impact on the government and people come here—like they did 60 years ago—because this is a place that prioritizes mission impact over top line revenue.”

“We don’t hire people for contracts. We hire people for long-term employment at LMI because we think they have potential to make a big difference.”

On Value And An Innovative Ecosystem

Governments are confronted with unique challenges, which require an undiluted focus from organizations addressing a range of national security initiatives. At LMI, taking a proactive approach to understanding the landscape of possible challenges and being heavily involved in the surrounding partner ecosystem are key to the process.

According to Wilson, “You can’t wait for the government to come forward with their problem and then sit back with a bunch of really smart brains to think about those problems and what that solution would look like. You have to become a porous organization; you have to be really tied into this community. As a professional services firm, to understand what is possible, you have to understand what’s out there. And, to do that, you have to be a convener. You have to be a convener of academia. You have to be a convener of technology startups. You have to be a convener of a broad set of customers across the federal government. Democratization of information just means, if you want to continue to be relevant as a services company, you have to do more than just help the government think about those problems. You have to be able to bring perspectives around what is possible that are informed by possibilities that go beyond your organizational walls.”

“In today’s world, to get the best idea, you have to be a convener.”

Fostering innovation and collaborating with partners are critical pillars of success for LMI in implementing solutions for its government clients. To LMI, the work is not about being the lowest-price, technically acceptable provider or delivering commodity IT services, it goes all the way back to LMI’s founding mission: “to bring the best minds to bear on solving our government’s most complex management problems.” Leaning into that core vision, LMI has built up an ecosystem and partnered with companies with a shared drive for bringing value to the government.

“We are a company you call when there’s large defined, or not so defined, problems without a clear solution. Or, in a business scenario, where you have clearly defined problems today, but, as you look to your future, there are major changes on the horizon so you’re going to need someone that can adapt with you,” says Wilson. “When we say we have a technology partnership, that doesn’t mean that it’s something on paper, it means we have dedicated environments, where we stand up their technologies, we take data that we have unique access to, we build out demos, and we test whether or not these solutions can deliver real value with real data. Clients aren’t paying us for that. We are doing that all on our own dime. And we are doing that so, when they show up and we tell them this will solve your problem, they know it’s not something we read in a brochure.”

At LMI, engaging collaborators in its ecosystem is about more than gaining perspective and context on the capabilities in the market, it’s a differentiated approach all about creating value for end customers. Wilson adds that, ultimately, “[Partners] reduce our time to value, and that’s the game we are in. We want to get to a solution fast. So, if your end state is time to value and you don’t have a technology partnership strategy, you’re going to get run over.”

“For us, it’s all about time to value, how long does it take for us to go from client challenge to solution. It’s not about owning intellectual property. It’s all about providing solutions to our customers at the pace of need.”

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More Innovation On The Horizon?

Wilson notes that when it comes to delivering value, real success lies in providing specific solutions to a problem, not just demonstrating capabilities. “The common mistake I see a lot of folks make is they stand up a data science cell. No one is buying data science. Everybody is buying specific solutions. It’s really the solutions that I think are going to drive your success, which means you are going to be doing advanced analytics for what?” He also adds that you need to “figure out what problem areas you want to focus on because you can’t just be great at IT for all IT things. You’ve got to have this combination of deep functional expertise and understanding of the mission and of the business area, coupled with a high digital IQ.”

And Wilson predicts “digital IQ” and digital expectations are only going to increase in the field. While he believes the DoD will reach a certain scale of innovation before other areas of government due to its budget size, “everyone across the federal government is highly aware of the direction in which they need to run.”

As an example, he adds that, “The required pace of innovation for the DoD to stay relevant and to be able to deter or defeat near peers is stressing the Army organizational construct. That’s why you see things like Army Futures Command standing up, and why you see things like the Joint AI Center. And they’re standing that up under the CIO (Chief Information Officer) of the entire DoD, who is a direct report to the Secretary of Defense, because the pace of innovation requires it.”

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And Most Importantly, On Trust

To Wilson, trust is paramount. As a former U.S. Army officer and current military spouse, he places a heavy emphasis on trust with LMI’s government customers, but also with the people at LMI. “You can’t have a high-functioning organization with cohesion and effectiveness if there’s not trust. People will never trust you unless they genuinely and honestly believe that you care about them. That comes through authentic gestures, through doing things for them when it’s not convenient,” says Wilson. 

In reference to LMI’s first-place recognition in the Washington Post’s Top Workplaces 2021 list, he adds, “It’s not surprising to me at all, after being here for 8 years, that we were rated that way by our employees. Yes, today we work on Jason Bourne–type problem sets and many of our employees came to LMI to get the opportunity to support those programs, but we demonstrated, especially during COVID-19, that we care. Not a single employee was laid off. Even when that was very inconvenient from a profit and loss perspective. We also provided stipends to outfit their home offices along with care packages and other efforts”

“I think when you do those things and demonstrate that level of care, there’s lots of trust. So, when you make hard changes, like reorganizing LMI the way we did, and restructuring the organization so drastically after 50 years in a different direction, you can only do those things if there’s a lot of trust. That’s why I think, in the last 3 years, we have had incredible success and growth.”

About Josh Wilson:

Josh leads LMI’s Service Lines and Technology organization spanning concept development and customer delivery of capabilities for all LMI Services. He previously served as LMI’s vice president of Digital and Analytics Solutions, directing a team that helped federal agencies leverage analytic-driven innovation to materially improve citizen services and operational performance.

As a senior executive officer of the LMI Research Institute and LMI Ventures, the latter of which he helped establish, Josh manages a portfolio of partnerships, developing enterprise data management, modeling and simulation, and AI solutions to address immediate client challenges.

Prior to LMI, Josh was a U.S. Army officer, serving two overseas tours focused on infrastructure reconstruction efforts in Iraq. He later joined Deloitte’s public sector practice, where he specialized in analytics-driven business model transformation and strategic planning engagements. Josh holds a bachelor’s in systems engineering from the U.S. Military Academy and a master’s in engineering management from the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

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