Lost in the Cloud
The latest buzzword in business is “the cloud”. Cloud computing is all the rage. We are all encouraged to collaborate in “the cloud”. Apple and Microsoft tout the benefits of their respective clouds. Dropbox and Box now store terabits of people’s data…in the cloud.
The cloud is a wonderful innovation that creates a seamless connection between devices, networks and work groups over the Internet.
The cloud is, however, not so great for leadership.
Leading in a cloud resembles something more akin to fog. And fog is not a nice place because you can quickly become lost.
Pilots, for example, are trained to fly through cloud. They are flying visually blind but are guided by all sorts of electronic gadgetry to ensure they stay on track, know where they have been, where they are and where they are going. The loss of those instruments can quickly, however, lead to disaster.
Motorists are encouraged to slow down when driving in fog. You simply can’t see what’s coming up whether its a stalled truck or a cliff face.
Leaders who chuck out the organizational structure and, in its place, adopt the cloud do so because they feel it enables freedom and creativity. That sounds great at first, but soon you realize that people still need to know where they are and, more importantly, where they are going. Pilots flying into cloud can instantly suffer spatial disorientation and become unclear of up or down, left or right.
People always need structure. Even a little structure. A lot has been written about flattening organizations and creating pinwheel or wagon wheel structure in place of hierarchy. But, at the end of the day, its still structure. It just looks a little different.
Without structure, the cloud is nothing more than fog at ground level. For those employees on the ground, they grope around and hope that they will, eventually, find something to latch onto. Or, like the cautious driver, they slow things down so they don’t go careening off a cliff. Conversely, for those at 30,000 feet, fog obscures the ground and makes it difficult to know what’s going on underneath. As a result, the organization grinds to a halt.
Cloud computing is cool. Cloud leadership, not so much.
What do you think? Are traditional, hierarchical organizational structures passé? Is the “cloud” the way to create innovation and creativity? Appreciate your thoughts and comments.