“When everyone is working together to stay the course, you’ve got a bigger problem than you think!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
I want to start 2024 by sharing a few snapshots about a recent offsite corporate leadership meeting held by the team at Legacy International.
The organization finds itself in an interesting situation – markets are changing as new competitors come into the industry, new ideas involving disruptive new business models are being implemented, and customers are becoming more demanding. The organization has, over the years, come to understand that the future belongs to those who are fast, but it has perfected the art of moving slowly, believing that what worked yesterday will still be effective tomorrow.
They recently hired this new fellow, pictured above, Ian Batelemore, who is taking on a newly created position within the organization as the Senior VP of Innovation Inhibition; this is a snapshot of his new job announcement above. The CEO – who was responsible both for the new position and hiring of this fellow – thought it would be a good idea to introduce him to the rest of the organization, to solidify the message that the most important thing the organization could do would be to stay the course. With that in mind, let me introduce the Sr VP of Last Minute Indecision – she’s responsible for making key decisions, but can’t quite bring herself around to the necessity for doing so. She’s busy reaching out to her team, telling them that they need to organize a critical leadership meeting in just over two weeks.
Here’s a photo of this newest hire, Ian. The photo is actually from his previous position at a company in a completely different industry, where he did his best to shut down new ideas, slow the organization down, and essentially communicate a message that the status quo would be good enough. The CEO thought that these attributes would make him perfect for this newly created position. The fact that he has no expertise or experience in this industry was dismissed as relatively unimportant, as his key role would just be to shut down progress and momentum.
The idea of the offsite meeting was that the entire corporate leadership team should get together for a recap of what was not done the previous year, to review what new goals should be tossed aside, and what initiatives should be postponed or avoided in the forthcoming year – and to emphasize that this new executive would be responsible for implementing this plan.
Miraculously, the event began to come together, even though there was no budget allocated to the event. There were some pitched battles along the way, though, as the Senior VP of Initiative Postponement tried his best to delay the event – he’s the fellow over on the right. He viewed the new hire as a bit of a political problem and began a pitched effort for some behind-the-scenes skullduggery to cause havoc down the road.
In a very short period, the event was pulled together, and everyone shuffled off to the event location, a small hotel one mile from the headquarters of the Legacy Corporation. Despite the lack of a clear agenda and demonstrative purpose other than introducing the new guy, there was a remarkable lack of enthusiasm for the day.
No wonder. The day before, a small group of executives got together for a small team session – it was the first time they had spoken to each other for quite some time. The time for group discussion, though, pretty much disappeared because the Director of Bureaucratic Procedures went overtime to share his best practices with the group. It took hours for him to get through his presentation. Most nodded off half way through.
Onwards to the big day!
The opening session was led by the Sr. VP of Imagination Destruction, who covered a vast range of issues as to why many of the big goals and bold visions that were circling would never be pursued by Legacy International. He did an effective job of stifling most of the enthusiasm in the room, an important goal given that he had his marching orders from a fellow executive, the Sr. VP of the Status Quo. Much of the meeting room was empty, though, since there was a massive number of no-shows – most of the team was far too hungover from the angry, dispirited discussions around the bar the night before.
After this entirely uninspiring kickoff, the meeting broke up into small groups. Here is the Director of Stifling Ideas talking with his team as to why it’s probably best that everyone just keeps doing what they’ve been doing all along, and not try to do anything new. His core message? Change is for everyone else, but not for us at this moment in time! Powerful! His team – a powerful group of initiative killers – has a great track record of killing off any bold moves, and there was a lot of enthusiasm and support for the bold new hire!
Outside of the conference hall, though, this group of executives – individuals who had been busy trying to move the organization forward out of its complacency – reacted with a bit of shock to the overall message. Previously identified by HR as a gorp of high-performing executives, they’ve finally come to realize that Legacy International has no future whatsoever.
Never mind though – the overall theme of the event – the concise message to stay the course that was heard throughout the meeting — was later summarized by the Director of Standing Still. He wrote a rather uninspiring and droll memo to the rest of the organization as to how the minor goals and objectives of the last five years would stay in place.
Oh, one last thing – here’s a group of recent hires at Legacy International – the under-30 set. They came into the organization with bold career goals, and vast ambitions to achieve change. They’ve just read the memo and realized that unless they can get out, they are doomed to a career of stifling lack of purpose. Look at their faces! They’re pretty depressed!
All in all, the offsite meeting was remarkably unsuccessful and Ian, the new guy, set off to destroy whatever initiative he could find.
Of course, none of these images are real, and the entire storyline is fictitious.
The images were generated by an AI, MidJourney, which is offering up some truly amazing photo generation capabilities with the latest version 6. Here I am, hard at work, based on the previously shared photo of my friend Ian!
The job titles? I used my imagination to generate them! Sadly, though, I’ve seen executives who, despite their titles, seem to undertake these exact roles and responsibilities. And so while the story itself might be fictitious, I can assure you, that I’ve seen many of these exact types of situations unfold. That’s why I wrote my list of the Innovation Killers – which can be found over at https://innovationkillers.jimcarroll.com
You’ve probably seen this storyline in other situations and other organizations as well. We live in a world in which all too often, complacency is embedded, initiative is lacking, innovation is stifled – and inaction rules the day!
That’s why we call them Legacy organizations!