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By Robert Christiansen
When conflicting viewpoints threaten to disrupt your cloud program, effective leaders know they must build consensus. Healthy debate is good, but not at the price of progress. Far too many times, great programs start out well, only to stall because of in-fighting and conflict. One way to get back on track is through a leadership forum – a workshop that facilitates communication breakthroughs and aligns leaders.
Why you need a leadership forum
Many people think conflicting viewpoints on cloud adoption are all about technology. That’s actually not the case; it’s more about communication – or lack thereof. As leaders try to implement the right technology solutions for their organization, they are bombarded with marketing materials for solutions promising to solve all their problems. This results in tech fatigue, which slows the process. In addition, personal preferences also come into play, distracting leaders with too many options. When people are confused by too much choice, they fall back to what they know and dig in – often at the expense of the team’s progress.
Keep in mind a number of viable technology options will allow your organization to achieve cloud adoption success. The problem occurs when leaders disagree on which technology to choose, how to leverage the chosen technology, what vendors to use, and how to fit the technology into the culture of the teams.
These disagreements lead to conflict in three main areas:
Application teams not cooperating with central IT teams
Application teams unclear as to the standards they want to adopt for cloud native development
Conflict on how to build and develop a DevOps practice that works within the current culture of the company
To build a consensus, your team needs to rise above the noise. One effective way to do this is through a leadership forum—bringing the right people together to better communicate and work together to achieve a common goal.
Who should attend your leadership forum?
Getting everyone together in one room promotes valuable communication and allows your leaders to build a consensus. Everyone has the chance to express their opinions and the team talks about the pros and cons of each option. Throughout the process, leaders gain a common understanding and clear up any miscommunications. When that happens, everyone can move forward toward a common goal.
When organizing an effective leadership forum, it’s important to invite the right people. First, the organizer must be the CIO or executive responsible for the cloud program. That person must have the overall authority to make decisions.
The CIO’s direct reports and their key team leaders should also participate. These people typically include leaders in operations, security, architecture, and networking. Application owners and lines of business leaders should also attend. These people are the ones that engage directly with your central IT teams. Make certain that all who attend are vested in the outcomes.
Strong facilitation is vital
A successful leadership forum must have a strong facilitator experienced in conflict resolution and bringing people together. To be taken seriously, the facilitator must also possess a high degree of technical knowledge, including best practices and real-life examples of success and failure.
A good facilitator will create a safe space for people to express their points of view, while at the same time, guide the discussion to resolution. Technology people are passionate about their tech. And from time to time, they are sensitive to criticism, especially when decisions do not go their way. This leads to passive aggressive behaviors that eat away at the foundation of the group. The facilitator’s job is to uncover the conflict, discover the sources of the disagreement, and move the teams to a healthy resolution.
What should the format look like?
In my experience, a successful format should include 2-3 days of discussions, which gives attendees ample time to voice their opinions. It also needs to provide some downtime (overnight) to reflect on discussions and be able to process the information presented.
The facilitator should use whiteboards and flipcharts to capture attendees’ opinions and move the discussions along. At the start, the group needs to define their cloud outcomes – the why of cloud. The forum uses the why of cloud as the grounding and true north to resolve all conflict. If the outcomes do not support the true north objectives of cloud, they are not valid to the alignment of the team.
As the forum progresses, the facilitator needs to encourage communication between leaders and attendees – air conflict and get the team members to agree on a common resolution. (If attendees do not agree to resolve their problems, deeper personnel challenges may be needed before common understanding can occur.)
In general, the facility you choose needs to provide a safe, encouraging, and engaging environment where attendees feel free to share and discuss different viewpoints. When that happens, everyone can come together to move forward on an agreed upon path.
Finding consensus with a leadership forum
When problem resolution is needed, Cloud Technology Partners (CTP, a Hewlett Packard Company), provides leadership forums as part of our standard cloud consulting service. If your cloud adoption has stalled due to conflicting viewpoints, you may need a breakthrough-leadership forum – no, not for self-discovery, but to help your team better communicate and move forward in your cloud transformation.
To learn more about the cloud computing experts behind hundreds of the most advanced cloud initiatives, visit the CTP website.
About Robert Christiansen
Robert Christiansen is a cloud technology leader, best-selling author, mentor, and speaker. In his role as VP, Client Advocate, Robert is a key member of the HPE CTO Office. His client base includes Fortune 500 and Global 2000 customers, and his team’s leadership model encompasses the entire IT transformation journey, from inception to execution. To read more articles by Robert, please visit the HPE Shifting to Software-Defined blog.