Our Most Important Legacy

Here is this month’s piece from Brand Velocity, an Atlanta-based consulting firm that is putting Peter Drucker’s ideas into practice at major corporations.

We often work with companies hoping to get rid of their “legacy systems”—outmoded technologies that they’ve been slow to replace because of the tremendous cost and disruptions required to do so. But in many cases, they wind up focusing on the wrong “legacy.”

It’s not that they shouldn’t be modernizing their IT infrastructure. It’s that they believe that by changing out the technology, they’ll somehow magically fix more fundamental business issues: getting the right faces in the right places to do the right things.

Most of the time, “the new technology will demand much closer coordination between specialists,” Peter Drucker noted in People and Performance. “And it will demand that functional managers even at the lowest management level see the business as a whole and understand what is required of them.

“The new technology,” Drucker added, “will need both the drive for excellence in workmanship and the consistent direction of managers at all levels toward the common goal.”

In other words, bringing in new hardware and software systems isn’t sufficient in and of itself. As important—if not more important—is that everyone throughout the organization understands where they intend to go and why; what to do and when; how best to do only those things; and who is responsible for doing them.

If you bring in the latest technology—but fail in those more humanistic aspects of the business—you’re likely to fall victim to another great Drucker insight: “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

In business, especially IT, “legacy” is seen as a negative. Yet Drucker often asked his clients, “What do you want to be remembered for?”

Imagine if every company could turn legacy from a negative into a positive. In our rapidly changing environment, now is the time for executives to create their most important legacy—building teams of managers who are truly capable of leading the transition from historic systems and structures to create a new future for a new world.

Alan Kisling is a managing director of Brand Velocity. He can be reached at oak@brandvelocity.com.