Head in the Clouds - Leadership and culture

The entrepreneur who started a company and successfully grew it from zero to its first $1M in revenue, may not be the right leader to take the company and grow it to the next $10M. Similarly, enterprise executives need to recognize that the skills, attitudes and behaviors that exist today in the executive suite may not be those that will get the organization swiftly through a digital transformation.

It’s clear that some organizations recognize that from a leadership and cultural perspective, what they have today does not foster a digital mindset. Organizations purchasing finteks and setting up incubators have chosen to keep these at a safe arm’s length. The suit and tie culture may have become a business casual culture but they haven’t adopted hoodies and foosball tables yet.  This is another reason why it’s necessary to setup a dedicated cloud transformation organization. As much as this organization is an incubator and driver for cloud services across the enterprise, it also becomes a proving ground and business university for future technology and business leaders. Digital is, and increasingly will be, a fundamental part of the businesses value chain. Executives and leaders who have the technology understanding, solid vendor relationships and an entrepreneurial mind set will be an asset to the organization.

Enterprises need to develop their next set of digital leaders and train their existing leaders. Enterprises need to identify the characteristics in a digital culture that they want to promote and then live those characteristics. In some organizations, executives promote a culture of “fail fast and learn“, and the when people fail they get poor performance reviews or even worse, they get let go. Executives’ state “There is a war for the best talent, we must cut bureaucracy, and make decisions faster”. Then it takes nine months to hire someone. Worse, an onerous business case approach has to be followed and decisions take six months to make. The bottom line is that to apply the existing legacy leadership, culture and the processes to enabling the digital transformation is akin to building cars in a cake factory.

To get to digital, the underlying tools, processes and culture need to change. There is also a significant human aspect to driving to cloud. With the amount of restructuring that takes place, many employees no longer trust the messages they hear from their managers and executives. The gig economy will likely become a reality not just because businesses see flexibility and savings from pay as you work but because the workforce has simply lost confidence in the protective, career-nurturing embrace of the corporation. To create a truly entrepreneurial, digital centric culture, executives, managers and supervisors will likely have an uphill battle. Developing the executive and management skills and digital culture as one of the biggest challenges facing large enterprises today.  



Simon Morris is a Digital Transformation leader at KPMG.  When his head’s not in the clouds, he is riding his bike, carving turns on his snowboard, or helping his son build water cooled computers. He can be reached at simonmorris@kpmg.ca