How Inquisitiveness Feeds Innovation at Honeywell International

Honeywell International’s Chuck Graf emphasizes the importance of staying curious to drive the company toward the future of technology

The team at Honeywell International works to invent cutting-edge technologies that provide valuable solutions to challenges in energy, safety, productivity, and global urbanization. Through these efforts, the company has made great strides in paving the way for new markets and industries that advance quality of life across the globe. Recent collaborative efforts by Honeywell have addressed and refined issues in sustainability, maintenance processes, and even petrochemical solutions using plant technologies. As a pioneer in technology solutions, Honeywell constantly evolves while sustaining its connection with each specialty area in the industry. With the introduction of its new CEO, Darius Adamczyk, the company also welcomed change in its manufacturing processes, moving away from creating pure, industrial products and toward more software-based technologies.

Over the past fifteen years, Chief Global Investigations and Litigation Counsel Chuck Graf has witnessed the rapid changes of the market and the advancement of Honeywell’s constant innovation. In his position, he reflects the mission of the company by exercising his passion for learning in every case he encounters. He allows his curiosity to guide him to finding answers to big questions and always stay one step ahead of the next big idea. As the company’s first attorney devoted to providing comprehensive legal oversight of internal investigations across the company, Graf provides guidance to stakeholders in Honeywell’s workplace investigations worldwide. In addition, Graf oversees litigation and dispute resolution globally for Honeywell’s performance materials and technology business and handles broader corporate disputes that do not necessarily involve a particular business.

Chuck Graf, Chief Global Investigations & Litigation Counsel, Honeywell International Courtesy of Honeywell International

Before he moved to Honeywell, Graf worked in-house for Howrey. He considers this job the foundational starting point to the rest of his career insofar as it taught him the fundamental skills needed to prepare and try cases, build strategic acumen, and approach litigation civilly. As he moved through his early career, he learned to accept the help and expertise of other leaders and mentors to become a better lawyer himself. At Honeywell, Graf has transferred this philosophy to his current work by encouraging people from all key stakeholder functions to become involved in important initiatives to transform Honeywell’s workplace investigations process. Using these assets has uncovered solutions in surprising but rewarding ways:

“Using other people as resources provides an answer that could be transformational with regard to an investigations process. When attempting to transform processes in a large organization, soliciting input early on from key stakeholders both provides better answers and increases buy-in across the organization for the ultimate changes. In our investigations process project, we started by building a team that comprised representation from all key stakeholder groups: someone from our HR organization, someone from our security organization, and people from the legal department. We constantly have to make sure that we’re doing something that is practical—and that people could implement. That way, we’re setting an expectation for what is coming next.”

Graf’s all-inclusive problem-solving approach has kept the team at Honeywell a notch above the rest. He says, “While there’s been a lot of change in our markets, we never feel like we’re making 180-degree turns to stay on track. The company makes well-thought-out decisions and manages change well while still moving rapidly, which allows it to stay ahead of its peers—we see the future before it is upon us and react thoughtfully.”

“It’s extremely important to stay curious beyond just what the facts are.”

As much as the company has changed throughout his tenure, Graf makes sure to keep his approach fresh and active. He seeks new opportunities to learn about material he’s working with or may become relevant as the company moves toward the future. As the company evolves, so does Graf’s knowledge. He says that learning deeply about the company’s products and markets is imperative to knowing how to successfully solve cases. At Honeywell, material is highly technical, and Graf has built his career on an intense curiosity that has allowed him to quickly master new technologies or industries. For example, Graf’s first case in his legal career centered on nuclear plant technology—something completely out of his realm. Rather than finding the case discouraging, however, he immersed himself in the new subject matter and realized it was something he enjoyed. This experience taught him how to level with industry experts and adequately guide them through cases.

“It’s extremely important to stay curious beyond just what the facts are,” he explains. “Throughout my career, I’ve dived into learning about different industries so I could keep up with the dynamics and competition within the field. Whether you’re dealing with a narrow issue or something broader, by asking questions and getting involved, you’re able to get in a position where you can give more comprehensive and global, well-formed advice on different problems.”

Graf’s colleagues in the legal field have taken notice of his unique abilities. “Chuck is a great problem solver,” says Glen Silverstein, a senior partner at Leader Berkon Colao & Silverstein. “He utilizes dynamic resources, including litigation evaluation and, if needed, implementation, to work the problem until it’s solved from a business perspective.”

Honeywell’s recent evolutions have prompted new developments in the standardization of internal processes. Much like how Graf’s investigations transformation encouraged the participation of key stakeholders, the rest of the workplace is adopting these same philosophies to include the people who are most affected by various functions. Along with embracing this new mentality, Graf has made it a goal to adopt a more business-oriented approach to his work to become an even more valued advisor, demonstrating his devotion to Honeywell’s mission. He considers joining Honeywell “the best career decision he ever made.” The dynamic of the company has helped him grow beyond his horizons as purely a litigator and allowed him to flourish as his role has broadened. With the leadership, expertise, and guidance available to him, he has become a seasoned advocate for Honeywell’s ever-advancing posterity.


EXPERTISE SPOTLIGHT

Leader Berkon Colao & Silverstein LLP is a premier litigation boutique with a long history of representing clients such as Honeywell International in important litigation matters. The complex commercial litigation team is led by trial lawyer Glen Silverstein. Glen draws upon top-flight trial skills, not only at trial and arbitration but also throughout the litigation process, including depositions, mediations, and hearings, to make a difference in the outcome of the case. In addition to numerous defense-side victories at trial and arbitration as well as other favorable and strategic outcomes, Glen, along with partner Mike Tiffany and the rest of the team, recently won (and collected) more than $100 million for a client and won the rare multimillion-dollar case that was fully tried in the New York Supreme Court Commercial Division. Based in New York, with additional offices in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, Leader Berkon Colao & Silverstein’s twenty-plus lawyers—all litigators—are well positioned to handle major litigation from coast to coast. The firm, which recently celebrated its thirtieth year in practice, acts as national counsel for certain clients, and has long been a thought leader and early adopter in the area of alternative fees and cost-efficient representation.


Kirkland & Ellis:

“Chuck is that rare lawyer who combines a first-rate intellect with outstanding judgment to deliver consistently excellent results for Honeywell.  He’s also one of the most decent people we’ve had the privilege to work with.”

-Craig S. Primis, P.C., Partner