The Dangers of Legacy Thinking

Every successful company and organization inevitably must confront a powerful question:

Is what got us to where we are helping us move forward or holding us back? Your company or organization may be thriving, but is this record of success sustainable and can you keep going?

Every successful company and organization inevitably must confront a powerful question:

Is what got us to where we are helping us move forward or holding us back? Your company or organization may be thriving, but is this record of success sustainable and can you keep going?

Maybe you’re noticing kinks in your armor or a drop-off in your sales. You’re thinking and acting as usual, but something is misfiring.

This is what I refer to as “legacy thinking.” If left unchecked, legacy thinking can pose enormous obstacles to your continued success—or worse.

Legacy Technology—Dangerous but Also Diverting      

Legacy thinking has a better-known cousin—legacy technology. The issue of legacy technology is old news—in more ways than one.

As you probably know, legacy technology refers to old forms of technology that are simply no longer optimal. This includes everything from software, operating systems or almost any technology once groundbreaking but now well past its prime.

The issues reach beyond outdated technology. Trying to get by with legacy technology can be very expensive, from the cost of operating the systems themselves to paying people to make certain nothing goes wrong, an inevitability. For example, Delta Airlines’ entire fleet in the United States was temporarily grounded because of computer problems—the second shutdown over a period of six months also shutting down the carrier’s website and mobile apps.

A more serious example occurred last year when the British bank Tesco shut down online banking after 40,000 accounts were compromised.

Those major headaches do not mean legacy technology is a problem in and of itself—it can cause a dangerous comfort in legacy thinking.

Legacy Thinking Defined

Like legacy technology, legacy thinking refers to thinking, strategies and other actions that are outdated and no longer serve you to the extent that they once had. This can be problematic if legacy thinking accounted for much of the success you’ve been able to achieve.

Many organizations can point to business principles, strategies and other ways of thinking that underscored success. One example is agility—the ability to respond quickly to changing events and market conditions. Reacting as quickly as possible helped many organizations climb to the top of their industries. Being agile, both internally and externally, seemed like a bulletproof way to approach things.

However, we are now in a period of transformational change. Whether products, services or the marketplace, change is not slowing down, which means legacy technology is becoming outdated faster as well.            

The same is occurring with legacy thinking. As the rate of change increases, even the most agile of organizations will be hard-pressed to keep up—let alone leap ahead with new ideas and innovations—and agility will likely prove to be less effective.

Take that reasoning and apply it to other forms of thinking and strategies that may have served you well in the past. Are they moving you forward or holding you back? If they’re more a hindrance, that’s legacy thinking. 

Legacy Thinking—Changing Your Thinking Changes Your Results

The first thing to understand about legacy thinking is that it isn’t necessarily all bad. Overcoming legacy thinking doesn’t mandate erasing every strategy, idea or leadership concept you ever used in the past. Instead, identify those ideas and strategies that continue to serve you well while pinpointing others that may have worn out their value.

Agility in and of itself is not something to be completely discarded. There will always be fires and other immediate issues that warrant an agile response. However, it’s no longer the silver bullet it once was.

Consider other forms of legacy thinking. For instance, maybe you or some others in your organization are hesitant to embrace new technology critical to your future growth and success. I saw this firsthand when I worked with a major retail organization. Many key figures on the leadership team didn’t embrace the company’s commitment to technology and other elements of the future. Mobile apps, internet shopping and other innovations made the company’s future seem bleak.

To remedy the situation, management made lateral moves with some individuals so their attitude wouldn’t hinder the company’s vision, while others were tasked with identifying strategies, ideas and tools that would serve the company’s progress well. The result was twofold—not only did the company effectively separate elements of harmful legacy thinking from their workflow, but those once-hesitant executives saw firsthand how powerful those tools and ideas could be. They were walked into the future—and they liked what they saw.

The next time you’re considering the dangers of legacy technology, include the pitfalls of legacy thinking. Just as old software shut down an entire airline, legacy thinking can cripple your organization. Don’t forget that there’s always the opportunity for an upgrade in the way you think and act.

10 Things I Wish I knew Before Starting My Own Business

successful entrepreneur

Working as a senior vice president for a Fortune 100 company and running IT Services for 48,000 end-users on a global scale was a tough job. It was long hours, lots of pressure and difficult customers. But, even so it was nothing compared to joining the ranks of the entrepreneurs and starting my own business.

Here are 10 things I wish I had known before I started as it would have helped me be better prepared for the important first few years of my entrepreneurial life.

1. Don’t create new products, solve problems.

Forty-two percent of product launches fail because there is no need for the product. That’s right 42 percent fail because nobody wants the product.

So instead of trying to develop new and wonderful products to look for problems to solve. Where there’s a problem, there is a need.

2. Forget about being an overnight success.

Even the companies regarded as the quickest overnight successes, Amazon and Yahoo, took at least three years to get there, and the majority of companies take up to 10 years to really make it. So if you’re the goal is to be the next billionaire start-up owner then you need to be prepared for a long haul.

3. Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses.

Your success is going to come from your strengths so make sure the majority of your time is focused in that area. We all have weaknesses, but either outsources those areas or hire someone to take care of it for you. Focusing on your weaknesses takes you away from what you’re best at and is not a good use of your time.

4. Get the yourself the right team

We can’t do it all on our own; we need help, but we need to make sure we get the right help. Twenty-nine percent of start-ups that fail do so because they had the wrong team in place. So take the necessary time to evaluate the team that you need and then hire the best people you can.

5. If you’re going to fail, fail fast.

Failure is all part of the process, not only should you expect it, but you should plan for it. The best approach for failure is to fail quickly, adapt and try again. One of the worst things we can do is to fail slowly, desperately hoping that things will turn around. You need to learn quickly what’s working and what’s not that needs to be stopped.

6. Understand your value proposition.

If you don’t understand your value proposition you make it practically impossible for people to buy from you, because they don’t know what it is, you’re selling.

The simpler and clearer you can keep, this easier it will for people to decide that they need your services.

7. Know your ideal customer.

I am amazed at how many entrepreneurs struggle with defining who their ideal customer is, myself included. If you don’t know the answer to this simple question, it makes marketing practically impossible. The tighter you can define this the more targeted and successful your marketing can be, and it will lead to more sales.

8. Not every customer is right for you.

We’ve all heard the saying the “customer is always right”, and while that’s good to know, it’s more important to know is that “not every customer is the right customer.” We should not be afraid to fire customers where the hassle of dealing with them diminishes the profitability or where the effort involved outweighs the benefits. Just like there are bad products and companies, there are also bad customers and we need to learn that it’s okay to let them go and to focus on finding the right customers.

9. Learn from the mistakes of others.

Mistakes are great learning opportunities, but we don’t necessarily need to make them all in order to learn from them. Eighty percent of start-ups fail, so study what caused them to fail and make sure you take the necessary steps to avoid falling into the same traps, it could save a lot of time, money and stress.

10. No sales, No business.

Sales are like oxygen, and without them, we die it’s that simple. It’s so very easy to get caught up in product design, marketing, planning, recruitment, branding, etc., etc., but we need to remember we are in business to make money and to make money we need sales. Business don’t develop themselves just because we have some great ideas, products or services.

While many of these things seem so obvious now, that wasn’t the case when I started.

Working for 25 years in a corporate environment wasn’t the best preparation for being an entrepreneur and understanding these things would have saved a lot of time and effort and would have helped me progress much quicker.

What do you wish that you had known when you first started out?