Most Legacy Companies are not Change-fit according to leading Executives

Seeking more transition, less stuck in disruption

I am on a quest that we see more organisations set for transition than getting caught disrupted.  It is a quest shared with many businesses and public leaders across the nation and the globe.  However, in many ways, it is appearing an insurmountable challenge in this decade of disruption that is just getting going.  Now is time to be dialling up transformational leadership, engaging people, inspiring people, developing people.

In this article we are going to give some definition to what this ‘legacy company’ paradigm is and the risks it entails for those within it – which is most of us, why acting now is so important, and how we can intentionally accelerate work to build ourselves and others.

 

Not sure if you are in a Legacy company?  Legacy professional discipline? Legacy ways of working?

It’s a term common in the tech sector which has its origins in reference to legacy systems, the old method, software, technology, program etc that was out of date yet still in use.  Referring to a system as legacy implies that the system is out of date or in need of replacement.  Reference to legacy systems is common when discussing conversions to new systems and upgrades.

You are leading a legacy company if your business and operating models, ways of serving and internal ways of working were originally built before the rise of the technology that dominated last decade – social, mobile, cloud, and the social changes that shifted effectiveness from command and control to distributed networks.  This definition will move again in the next few years as the pace and compounding of changes occur.

 

This is most of us.  Even famous champions of disruption from last decade.  Just ask founder and former CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, or Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg who went from the exuberant language of breaking others early last decade to increasingly being held to account by customers, the public and governments by the close of last decade.

 

Beyond the Tech sector in industries such as Health & Age Care, Food supply chains, professional services we are aware of the term but less frequently see and refer to ourselves and our ways of working that way.

 

The perspective can be useful.  I suggest don’t be distracted by the fact that your organisational purpose may largely be consistent over time.  The focus here is the legacy methods we use to fulfil our purpose – and that they quickly date.

The perspective of former Google Australia Managing Director, now ANZ Bank Group Executive- Digital Banking from her experience moving from Tech into a more long standing organisation is insightful on this topic :

“Most companies aren’t change fit. It’s a muscle you need to exercise,” she said.

“At Google or Adobe, you’re changing all the time. Your job will be redefined all the time and you’re used to it. But going back into a legacy business, that’s not the case.”

~ Maile Carnegie, ANZ Digital Chief

 

I am working with Leadership teams to assist them to determine where they and their organisation are on the Leadership team Change-fit ladder and determine where they target being to meet their strategic imperatives.

There is typically a gap.  Even with organisations that are appropriately proud of their contribution to society and their financial and service acumen.

 

Seeking more transition, less stuck in disruption

The strategic clarity of our career and organisation is not what we may have thought in the past.  There are many shifting dynamics.  This topic can trigger all sorts of reactions from Pollyanna futurism to total avoidance.

This combination can be a perfect recipe for all sorts of theatre rather than future-proofing.

(’16 Cases where your annual plan is more theatre than futureproofing’. Page 15 Traction: the 4 practices of change-fit leadership teams)

As an organisational leader practical steps need to be taken to get on the path of transition, and move on from the legacy paradigm.

Three actions you can take with your leadership team at your next meeting:

  1. Can you see the legacy business and operating models and ways of working that you own? (Respect the good work from the past.  It is what got us to be in the game to date)
  2. Looking at our next horizon strategic imperatives what is our change-fitness for this phase? (Just as an athlete can acknowledge past success, it is the next game, the next event that their match fitness is being assessed)
  3. Look where we currently ‘create space’ or incorporate building change-fitness into our weekly /monthly cycles.

There is typically a gap.  Even with organisations that are appropriately proud of their contribution to society and their financial and service acumen.

 

Seeking more transition, less stuck in disruption

The strategic clarity of our career and organisation is not what we may have thought in the past.  There are many shifting dynamics.  This topic can trigger all sorts of reactions from Pollyanna futurism to total avoidance.

This combination can be a perfect recipe for all sorts of theatre rather than future-proofing.

(’16 Cases where your annual plan is more theatre than futureproofing’. Page 15 Traction: the 4 practices of change-fit leadership teams)

As an organisational leader practical steps need to be taken to get on the path of transition, and move on from the legacy paradigm.

Three actions you can take with your leadership team at your next meeting:

  1. Can you see the legacy business and operating models and ways of working that you own? (Respect the good work from the past.  It is what got us to be in the game to date)
  2. Looking at our next horizon strategic imperatives what is our change-fitness for this phase? (Just as an athlete can acknowledge past success, it is the next game, the next event that their match fitness is being assessed)
  3. Look where we currently ‘create space’ or incorporate building change-fitness into our weekly /monthly cycles.
  • If you find your team uncomfortable frame a plan to create psychological safety for the next phase.
  • If you find your team “too busy” frame a plan to create space, prioritise the imperatives, think stop / start / more/ less.
  • If you find your team full of energy for the next phase frame a plan to create opportunities.

If you are interested in the quest that we see more organisations set for transition than getting caught disrupted I welcome engagement.

If you have read this far and still a bit unsure I would welcome talking with you.  We need to get in beside each other sometimes to lean into the new.

What has been your experience?

Bernie