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As You Move to the Cloud, Don’t Leave Your People on the Ground (Part 2 of 2)

With technology changes such as a migration to the cloud, managers need to prepare to understand and work with different personality types to manage the uncertainty and feel confident in supporting the change.

In Part 1 of this discussion, we explained the importance of managers focusing on people issues associated with a technology change such as migration to the cloud. In this article, we present a more nuanced discussion of how employee reactions may vary as a function of individual differences and what managers can do to help employees cope with the change.

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For example, academic research has examined how an individual difference such as the personality trait of the software developer may affect how they cope with requirements uncertainty during software development. Other research has also shown that empowering leadership could affect employee perceptions of psychological empowerment and in turn their job performance. Using these as cues, in this article we highlight the role of individual differences in affecting how employees react to changes and how managers might help all employees to ensure a smooth cloud migration.

Using Communication Style to Identify Personality Traits

Although there are well-established scales to determine the personality trait of an individual, it is not always feasible for a manager to use them in work settings, so we will use a simpler lens. The framework illustrated below is also easy for managers to observe without having to administer a survey. We use communication style as the basis, as shown in Figure 1, and classify individuals into four categories -- Amiable, Analytical, Driver, and Expressive.

Figure 1: Using communication style to identify personality type.

Whereas the Analytical and Amiable types are more introverted, the Driver and Expressive types are more extroverted. Similarly, the Analytical and Driver types are more deliberate thinkers related to tasks and dependencies. The Amiable and Expressive types are guided more by emotions and relationships and use feelings as a basis in their responses.

Phases of Change and Individual Differences

We look at cloud migration as being composed of four major phases: the announcement phase, the troughs of complications phase, the tangible progress phase, and the final release phase. In Figure 2 we present the kind of response that we expect from employees with each of the personality traits.

Figure 2: Employee responses to phases of change.(Click to enlarge)

Individuals can exhibit a variety of behaviors and responses, especially under stress, so we have focused on aspects that are easy to understand and relate to for a manager striving to complete a project within budget and on time. Specifically, we suggest that managers pay attention to the particular expression (or lack of expression) behavior during the early stages to ensure that the rest of the project proceeds according to plan. In particular, the “vocal discontent” behavior of the Expressive type, the “combative” behavior of Drivers, the “withdrawn” behavior Amiables, and the “quiet discontent” of the Analytical type.

Taking Pre-Emptive Actions

Based on the behaviors identified in Figure 2, we propose that managers pre-empt such behavior rather than be reactive. In Figure 3 we propose our idea on how the manager may help each of the four personality types to be heard and thus feel included.

Figure 3: Manager’s pre-emptive behaviors. (Click to enlarge)

For the Expressive type of employee (an emotional extrovert), the manager’s effort is best channeled into helping them see the big picture during the early phase of the project. Because Expressives like to share and be heard, listening to their feelings on an ongoing basis, especially during the trough of complications, can be valuable.

Going further in the process, celebrating the progress made by the team and/or the individual involved (including public praise) is a great way to empower the Expressive employee with the support and environment conducive to adjusting to the project and performing at their best for a successful migration.

For the Driver type (who is a less emotional extrovert), the manager’s effort is best channeled into helping the employee understand his or her role and responsibilities during and after the migration. This may even involve providing options -- for example, asking the employee to choose which key roles (especially those associated with driving the migration to success) he or she wishes to play.

Such discussions also help address concerns about a possible reduction in the impact and relevance of the employee’s role and thus helps avoid combative behavior that could be disruptive to the project’s progress and eventual success. Listening to a Driver’s ideas on an ongoing basis can be valuable in unearthing possible issues or opportunities that would otherwise go unnoticed. Going further in the process, keeping Drivers updated on the major milestones achieved and official recognition for their contribution are great ways to empower them.

When dealing with introverted personality types, Amiables and Analyticals, managers must make a greater effort to consciously solicit feelings and ideas. This may involve creating mechanisms for providing anonymous feedback for the Amiables (because they like to avoid conflict and value relationships) and for the Analyticals (because their ideas can often be counter to popular opinion). However, in spite of their introversion, both types value being able to provide input into the process of a migration project.

A Final Word

The first step to a successful migration is acknowledging that there are differences among individuals and understanding how such differences in turn may impact response to a change (such as a cloud migration project). This two-part series has provided insights you can use to further improve the success of the project with the cooperation and support of their team members.

About the Authors

Stan Pugsley is an independent data warehouse and analytics consultant based in Salt Lake City, UT. He is also an Assistant Professor of Information Systems at the University of Utah Eccles School of Business. You can reach the author via email.

SankaraSubramanian Srinivasan, Ph.D. is a professor at the David Eccles School of Business, University of Utah. He has 14 years of teaching experience at U.S. business schools. His research focuses on the behavioral aspects of technology adoption and use, with an emphasis on the healthcare domain. Prior to grad school, Sankar worked for Zoho Corp.

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