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Sitting on yet another flight during takeoff I was forced to read print because my Kindle could obviously disable the auto-pilot system and force us to crash land on a secret government island and start a horrible soap opera with a four letter title.  Since Harvard Business Review isn’t available for the Kindle it’s typically my takeoff and landing material.  At $17.00 US per issue it’s only barely worth the price, but the summary before each article puts it over the top because it allows me to quickly separate the garbage and filler from articles that aren’t common sense (uncommon virtue or not.)  One of the articles that caught my eye was ‘How Hierarchy Can Hurt Strategy Execution’ (HBR July-August 2010.)  It’s the one or two articles like this per issue that keep me occasionally buying HBR.

The key findings in the article are:

  • ‘The biggest execution challenge is making strategy meaningful to frontline workers.’
  • ‘A lot of people can’t even tell you what their firm’s strategy is.’
  • ‘Strategy still comes mainly from the top.’
  • ‘People involved in its development are the most likely to buy in.’

Overall the premise of the article is that ‘the findings suggest a more bottom up approach to strategy development and a more transparent communication of overall strategy amongst the ranks.  Before I continue I highly suggest you go find and read this article, my summary doesn’t do it justice. 

This article resonated deeply with me for two reasons:

1) I’ve worked for companies in the past in which strategy and vision were never discussed and input from below was never sought out, the negative effects were openly apparent. I also currently work for a company that clearly understands the importance of promoting strategy and vision through the ranks, accepting input from all levels and ensuring that the entire company is operating toward a common set of goals.  Ask anyone within the company from a receptionist to the CEO and they will be able to tell you the companies values, vision, and year to year goals, as well as why they matter.  The difference it makes in both morale and execution is amazing. 

2) This is information that should be taken extremely seriously for any company engaging in a cloud strategy.  Moving an IT computing model to a cloud based model will be a disruptive change both technically and organizationally and there are many pitfalls that can occur if everyone involved is not working towards a common set of goals.

Whether moving to a public, private or hybrid cloud model there will be a lot of change.  The decision to make that move is typically going to happen at an executive level, but it will be carried out by the IT team and effect them the most directly.  If those teams don’t understand the goal, have a chance to provide input into the execution, and have a clear definition of what their role will be in the cloud model you will have a much harder time with the move, or fail completely. 

How helpful is a system administrator going to be with moving your applications to the cloud if they think that once they get them there they’re out of a job?  Whether that fear is realistic or not isn’t going to matter if it’s not addressed.  The other side of that communication coin will be the knowledge gathered from each level of your IT team.  There may be snags or beneficial ideas that get missed if everyone isn’t involved in the process. 

Once a decision has been made to migrate to a cloud architecture clearly define the goals and benefits then work with the entire team to develop the strategy and roadmap for the migration as well as defining what the individual contributors roles will be after the migration.  If various positions within the IT department will not be required after the migration is complete analyze the individuals in those roles and see where they may fit in other parts of the organization.  Involving them in that discussion is key, they may have career goals and skill sets that management teams aren’t aware of.  I’m a big believer in if you have the right people you can find or create the right fit.

Post Author: Joe Onisick (@JoeOnisick)

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