Will You Become Obsolete?

Will You Become Obsolete?

The one unchangeable certainty is that nothing is certain or unchangeable. – John F. Kennedy

George’s boss informed him today that he has the option of taking a lower position in the organization or accepting an employment severance package. George’s 30-minute commute home seems like it is taking forever. He dreads breaking the news to his wife.

George has worked in the Information Technology organization at his company for 12 years. He was responsible for managing the company’s legacy production planning system. The system was customized to meet the company’s needs when it was implemented several years ago. George was a key member of the system development and implementation teams. George became the go-to person for the production planning system. His business partners looked to George for advice on how to use the system, especially addressing production challenges and issues. George trained college new hires and other new employees on how to use the system. His reputation as a subject matter expert for the system and his solid performance drove his advancement to a position as a manager in the IT organization.

Two years ago, the company decided to replace the legacy system with the production planning and management component of the enterprise resource planning system (ERP) that the company initiated 3 years earlier. George was responsible for ensuring that the legacy system continued to meet the needs of the business while the new system was being implemented. The implementation of the new module was accompanied by the outsourcing of some systems management tasks that George managed for the old system. As a result, George’s role in production planning and management was reduced.

As he drove home, George wondered about what happened. Until recently, George had an important role in the organization. He was critical to the company’s need to satisfy the needs of the company’s customers, trade partners, and the Manufacturing organization’s business partners. What could he have done to avoid the situation in which he finds himself today?

The challenges that George is facing are similar to the challenges companies are facing today. Change is happening at a rapid pace. Product lifecycles are shorter. Innovation and evolving technologies have driven the implementation of new business models and the way companies conduct business. Companies that adapt to this rapid rate of change continue to thrive. IBM made the transition from its core focus on mainframe computing to computing platforms and information services suited to the needs of its customers in today’s business environment.

AT&T made the transition from being a telephone company to a communications company that enabled its customers to become more effective and efficient.

On the other hand, Lotus 1-2-3 was a product that did not quickly adopt evolving technologies and capabilities. The introduction of Lotus 1-2-3 in the early 1980s enabled a significant increase in the productivity of business professionals. Prior to Lotus 1-2-3, 13 column paper, pens and pencils, and calculators or applications such as Apple’s VisiCalc with limited capabilities were the tools for preparing, analyzing, and presenting data in spreadsheets. Lotus 1-2-3 introduced greater capabilities. Individuals who mastered Lotus 1-2-3 became valued employees because the speed at which they could prepare, present, and revise data. Lotus 1-2-3 proficiency became a job requirement, especially for individuals working in financial functions.

Lotus was slow to respond to the evolution of new capabilities such as entering data, preparing presentations, and performing analysis with points and clicks of a mouse; gridlines to make it easy to view data cells (columns and rows); and the integration of information into presentation, document, and email applications. Microsoft integrated these capabilities into Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and MS Mail). Lotus 1-2-3 customers made a rapid transition to Office. Lotus 1-2-3 became obsolete and faded away.

You, like IBM, AT&T, and Lotus, are in business. You offer a product, your skills and capabilities, for value (compensation) to satisfy your economic needs and goals. You are in The Business of You.

Changes in business models and the way companies conduct business to be successful in today’s competitive environment trigger changes in the skills and capabilities companies need from its employees.

  • How can you manage the lifecycle for your personal product to keep up with employment marketplace demands for skills and capabilities?
  • How can you anticipate changes in demand?
  • What can you do to continue to create personal value?

Consider the following measures to upgrade or refresh your personal product to keep it competitive in the marketplace.

  • Designate a specific and recurring time to research new skills, methods, and techniques.
  • Engage in a professional organization in your field.
  • Keep your fingers in the employment marketplace.
  • Research college/university curriculum in your field.
  • Connect with new employees, including recent college hires.
  • Take an investment approach to managing your career.
  • Hire a career coach.

Researching new skills, methods, and techniques could include reserving an evening during the week (e.g. Wednesday) as professional research night or block time on your calendar before your peers, boss, and subordinates arrive at the office or before the work day begins if you work from home. Make this a habit. This is the Research component of Develop Product required to operate The Business of You.

Professional organizations provide venues for discovering new developments and trends in your field. Organizations may have members make presentations and/or have expert guest speakers provide insights into professional developments.

Keeping your fingers in the employment marketplace could include:

  • Periodically reviewing job postings at career websites to identify skills and capabilities companies are demanding and the premium (additional compensation) the market is offering.
  • Interviewing for positions to get a firsthand view of what the market is demanding.
  • Maintaining relationships with search consultants to stay abreast of what the market is demanding.
  • Establishing and maintaining relationships with individuals who are in employment transition. These individuals can be excellent sources of marketplace intelligence because they are gathering intelligence to guide their job search.
  • Participating in conferences sponsored by your company’s vendors. Conferences often offer information on new techniques, concepts, applications, and tools.

Experienced and mid-career professionals often overlook information that recent college graduates can provide on new concepts and techniques. Remember that colleges and universities have to keep their curricula current to ensure the marketability of their graduates for employment. Build and leverage relationships with recent college graduates by assisting them with their assimilation into your company.

Individuals joining your company from other companies may bring knowledge that could be helpful to you, especially individuals from companies known as leaders in your field. Individuals tend to be more open to establishing relationships with other employees when they first join a company. They are eager to learn about the company and its culture. The relationships could lead to the new employees sharing insight on leading concepts and techniques in your field.

Companies generate value by investing in new business processes, concepts and models. Shift your view of professional development expenditures from costs to investments. I once had a discussion with an information technology professional who was disappointed because his company would not fund his Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. The training cost for the certification was $1,000. I suggested that he research information technology positions posted on career websites to determine the additional premium the market was paying for PMP certification. His research indicated that companies were paying about a $3,000 annual salary premium for PMP certification. He and I chuckled at the results of his research. Without an investment mindset, he would have overlooked the opportunity to gain an additional $3,000 annual income stream from a $1,000 investment. His pre-tax investment payback would be 4 months.

Hiring a career coach will help you add a personal continuous improvement component to your career plan. A career coach will help you determine your goals and the path to achieving your goals. A coach can serve as your accountability partner to keep you on tasks and help you overcome challenges that may inhibit the achievement of your goals.

We cannot stop change. However, we can take actions to manage change to our advantage.

Where is your personal product on its lifecycle?

Are changes in your organization’s talent pool telling you that your product needs an upgrade or refresh?

Do you feel that your personal effectiveness in your organization is diminishing?

Are you being selected for high visibility projects and assignments?

When was the last time you received a promotion?

Does your career management include a continuous improvement component?

Do you have a coach to serve as your accountability partner to keep your continuous improvement on task?

I invite you to share your comments, experiences, and suggestions. This helps me provide information that may help you address your career opportunities and challenges.

Fields of Success offers complimentary coaching sessions. Visit the Contact page on the Fields of Success website to schedule a session.


Our careers are our most important economic asset.

To get the most value from your most important economic asset, you must manage The Business of You.

Linwood Bailey is a career coach and the author of The Business of Me: Your Job … Your Career … Your Value. The Business of Me provides a career management process and information designed for today’s business professional. Since 2008, Linwood has enabled business professionals to manage their careers. Linwood, the been there coach, provides innovative career management solutions derived from his 34 years of experience managing functions and people in multiple industries, regions, and corporate cultures.



Founder, Fields of Success, LLC

Enabling professionals to convert career challenges into career success stories.


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