How to transform your corporate culture to embrace cloud

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Cloud Adoption Playbook corporate cultureThis is the third blog post in a series on cloud adoption and transformation following the release of The Cloud Adoption Playbook. Read Moe Abdula’s introduction to the series and insights from Ndu Emuchay on how to overcome cloud adoption and digital transformation challenges to learn more.

Every organization has a unique corporate culture that influences how it makes decisions and adapts to new business challenges. Whether employees will be encouraged to take risks, innovate and be creative, or be measured and prudent, depends on how those activities are viewed within the corporate culture.

The same is true of how a company will react to the changes required for cloud adoption and digital transformation. In every cloud adoption and transformation I have seen and supported, culture has played a central role, either to encourage the change that is needed or push against it.

How does your company approach change?

Cultural elements that affect overall cloud adoption can be represented as a spectrum.

Transform corporate culture spectrum 1

Adopting a new cloud environment will involve extensive change, from skills to processes to technology. While some companies willingly embrace change, others are more deliberate. Both styles can be successful, of course, but enabling change without reflection or being too cautious can cause chaos or decision paralysis, respectively.

Teams should incrementally embrace change by only changing a few elements at a time, assessing the results and proceeding with clarity. Doing this ensures that change is measurable and that it will reinforce your organization’s commitment to a new way of working.

How does your company manage risk?

Transform corporate culture 2

Change can be daunting, which leads to the next cultural element: an organization’s attitude toward risk. On one hand, some organizations are averse to risk and the unknown. This is true especially among regulated industries and large corporations. This can be limiting if decision paralysis extends to the smallest decisions of individuals. On the other end, however, are organizations that have no fear of the unknown, which can foster recklessness.

We promote controlled experimentation, which is a form of gradual change. Hypotheses are made, measured, and evaluated. In determining which risks to take, it is important to understand that not all risks and changes are equal. Some have large payoffs, but also larger losses.

Transform corporate culture 3

Each risk is a gamble, so an organization’s view of failure is also important. On one end, there are organizations that celebrate failure as a learning moment, building a psychological safety net for members. If that psychological safety net is absent, employees are usually discouraged from taking risks and cannot expand their own capabilities, nor those of the organization. Corporations on that end of the spectrum view failure as the fault of the risk takers and often punish them for their unsuccessful gambles. A growth mindset, where small risks are taken and made into learning moments if and when they do not achieve the desired outcome, is the right approach. When an organization supports small failures and learns from them, it normalizes measured risk taking and thus change.

How does your company make decisions?

Transform corporate culture 4

Decision making is foundational to attitudes about change, risk, and failure. At one end of the spectrum is an organization where decision-making is centralized and supported by a hierarchical organization with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. On the other end are organizations where decisions are consensus-driven.

Regardless of how an organization makes decisions, it is important for the organization to establish autonomy: clearly define what kind of decision-making power individuals have and for what they are held accountable. Throughout the decision-making process, it is important for all  to understand the details of the process and goal. When employees understand their individual and collective responsibility to others, they are empowered. Autonomy, accountability and empowerment are integral to learning from failure, encouraging controlled risks and enabling change at the individual level and for an entire organization.

How can your corporate culture shift to better embrace digital transformation?

As Moe Abdula noted, successful digital transformation extends beyond technical decisions. If an organization values cooperation, growth and empowerment, it can more easily embrace change, making it more likely to succeed in digital transformation.

We have released a video that discusses more about this topic, which you can watch here.

In any company, IT exists to serve the business. In a cloud-enabled world, this relationship must be made closer and stronger to reduce miscommunication and better align business goals from the inside out. To achieve this closer collaboration, however, a shift in perspective has to occur.

In The Cloud Adoption Playbook, Ingo Averdunk writes that change “is successful when responsibilities are shared, communication barriers are broken, and new oversight is implemented.” Collective responsibility arises when the individual knows how their contribution impacts the larger business. There are, of course, an entire set of considerations to evaluate regarding how to structure your organization.

You can order an e-book of The Cloud Adoption Playbook through our publisher here.

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