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Make your mark: How to leave a lasting legacy

By Emma Finch
Oct 12, 2015

Government, Facilities Management, Technology

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Make your mark: How to leave a lasting legacy What comes to mind when you think about legacy software? Is it old, clunky applications that only truly run well on Windows XP? Is it a suite of patchwork applications that barely work together? The truth is, legacy software is old and outdated. Using it won't get you very far - it's like trying to run a marathon with a 12-pound cannon ball chained to your ankle. You should feel the same about legacy operations management as you do about an old e-machine collecting dust in the storage room. Good management is about leaving a lasting legacy that changes the course of operations in a positive way. It's about effecting change that carries on long after your time as manager.

How to leave a legacy

You need to institute changes within your department and organization that make a lasting difference. But that's easier said than done. Oftentimes, organizational culture doesn't lend itself to change easily. In an article for The Washington Post that sought to address this issue, Joyce E.A Russell, vice dean at the Robert H. Smith School of Business, wrote that the first step to inducing change is to create a sense of urgency. Communicate to your department the reasons behind the change and appeal to your staff's emotions as well as the logical side of their brains. Russell further stated that once you've gained support and developed concrete goals, you should set up some short term goals. A legacy isn't accomplished overnight. You'll need to prove step-by-step that your changes are beneficial to the overall success of your organization. Show your staff how your changes benefit day-to-day and long term operations and cement your changes into the culture of your establishment.

In their book Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne wrote that the four biggest obstacles to change are cognitive differences, limited resources, lack of motivation and corporate politics. When crafting your legacy, you need to keep each of these in mind - failure to meet these obstacles could leave you as a distant memory instead of a key figure of positive change.

Tech savviness is vital

In previous generations, legacies were passed on orally. Someone in an apprenticeship would communicate directly with the manager and learn everything important through a series of in-depth conversations. Nowadays this just isn't the case. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, people between the ages of 20 and 34 have an average employment tenure of only 3.3 years. Millennials simply don't stay at one job for very long. When employees stayed at one company for 30 to 40 years, it was acceptable to train new hires over the course of years. This is no longer possible. Now, information must be stored in a central database that can be accessed by new employees. Younger generations are very comfortable learning from technology.

What does this mean for leaving a legacy? Mainly, it means you have to think in terms of electronic recordkeeping, e-learning and centrally located databases. Your legacy needs to be something that can be felt in every part of the corporate structure. Only communicating with one or two staff members means that if they go, so does everything you've worked for. Modern management practices require a certain amount of tech savviness, because records should be detailed, easily accessible and frequently updated. Lasting legacies are built with strategy in mind, and outdated information is poison to a good strategy.

Legacies are about people

The technological aspect of your legacy is extremely important. If it's only the computers that remember what you did, the effort is wasted. In what kind of state will you leave your organization, and how will people know about the impact you made? The only way for future employees to see what you did for the organization is to leave a record of your accomplishments. Are your completed goals being recognized? Is there any interdepartmental discussion about them? If you shape the message, you control the perception of your achievements.

To control your message - especially when talking to your superiors - you must know how much information to disclose at one time and think about its impact on the overall big picture. According to U.S. News and World Report, you should control the conversation by keeping a clear picture of your goals in mind. Focus on how your accomplishments have positively impacted the working lives of everyone in the organization and your community. By explaining the far-reaching benefits of your triumphs, you can further your message without sounding egotistical. In general, speak with empathy and honesty and your message will go far.At the end of the day, legacies are about people. It's the change that occurs within the culture of the organization that means the most. Technology is an important tool to this end, and proper use of management applications will boost the potential of your legacy.

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