Emotional intelligence in cloud transformation leadership

It’s all about the people

In its 2020 The Future of Jobs Report, the World Economic Forum stated the highest-currency skills right now include critical thinking and analysis, problem-solving, and skills in self-management such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility. Any dynamic, complex operation such as a Cloud programme calls for every one of these, and from almost everyone involved!

Strategising a Cloud programme’s human capital will always include functional org structures, R&R, the RACI/RAPID and stakeholder analysis/engagement planning but in the cold light of today, these are no longer fit for purpose in isolation. Approaching these elements on a solely administrative/management (IQ) basis isn’t enough as it’s emotional intelligence (EQ) and transformational leadership that determines success or failure.

Elite combat units have always understood the importance of decentralising the decision making, and to do that you need everyone to ‘own’ both the problem and the outcome with no spectators.  Former Royal Marine and Aitemology NED, Paul Kearney, has had the benefit of leading teams in both combat and commercial operations: “Ultimately your team’s understanding of, and engagement in the plan is the most important criteria for success – lots of mediocre plans have delivered remarkable results through proactive engagement.”

EQ plan for success

Historically, a dedicated People Strategy for a programme hasn’t been considered worth the effort, but perhaps with increasing complexity it’s time for a rethink. Through a slightly simpler version – a People Plan if you will – the traditional checklist of binary skills and experience should be assigned some emotional ownership. Think of it as a well-articulated and understood human roadmap that delivers the EQ sell (the carrot) to inspire and achieve widespread, company-wide alignment to the programme goals as well as the framework that clarifies roles and responsibilities (the stick).

Your EQ-based People Plan should:

  • Prioritise the areas where the right people will add value as well as deliver your strategic programme goals.
  • Reward the programme team in a way that motivates and garners a good return on investment.
  • Be rolled out with clear communication and the right tools/support to bring it to life.
  • Instil a culture of, and mechanics for, open feedback on programme progress.
  • Ensure every team member and everyone in your organisation knows how they contribute to the programme’s success.

Without one in place, you run the risk of: 

  • Misaligned teams and/or team churn.
  • Duplication of effort and frustration.
  • Disengagement and low morale.
  • Negative performance and/or obstruction.
  • Significant financial impact.
  • Board and shareholder disquiet.
  • Failure.

Transformational leadership

An EQ-based People Plan is unattainable unless its authors have innate transformational leadership qualities themselves, something Bernard M. Bass described in his 1985 book as ‘leadership and performance beyond expectations.’ A Cloud programme demands nothing less so invest time, effort, and money in finding a Programme Director and leadership team that can:

  • Create an inspiring vision of what the programme will deliver for the future.
  • Motivate people to buy into and deliver the vision.
  • Manage delivery of the vision.
  • Build strong, enduring and trust-based relationships with the project teams, Board, Business, stakeholders, vendors, and suppliers.

And the requisite hands-on senior leadership management experience (industry, technology, commercial, process, people, change etc.) is nothing without an ability to:

  • Set clear goals and be strong decision-makers.
  • Encourage others.
  • Provide holistic and individual support and recognition.
  • Inspire people to look beyond their self-interest and reach for the improbable.
  • Demonstrate social and emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills, inclusivity, and above all, courage.

Driving change through people power

By definition, a Cloud transformation programme involves varying degrees of change and there will always be some resistance. Aligning outcomes, agendas, egos, and corporate satisfaction is never easy! And hiring the wrong people (leadership, capabilities, and attitude) to drive the agenda is both time-consuming and costly. Whether it’s seen as a success or failure will largely be down to the human capital involved; those leading, those delivering, and those ‘receiving’. The value of adopting such deep EQ focus on your human building blocks extends far beyond the programme as inevitably the target IT state will require a new breed of business and IT professional who will deliver on-going incremental benefits to the organisation.

Aitemology® is the creator of the Plug and Playbook series of scale-up methodologies (Cloud, Change, Consult) that delivers effective transformational change. Consisting of a ‘how to’ primer underpinned by specific/dedicated aitems® (policies, processes, technical products, reports, templates etc.), organisations can navigate their chosen technical/non-technical transformation journey step by step from start to finish. Save time and money, retain control, maintain quality, and manage risk.


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