Transformational leadership - AWS Cloud Adoption Framework: People Perspective

Transformational leadership

Strengthen your leadership capability and mobilize leaders to drive transformational change and enable outcome-focused, cross-functional decision making.

To succeed with cloud transformation, leaders should focus on people as much as they do on technology. Without an effective blend of technical and business leadership, your transformation may slow down or stall. Refer to The Chief People Officer—The CIO’s Partner in Change blog post.


An organization’s ability to be successful in the digital era requires not only an investment in technology, but also a change in culture, with a focus on transformational leadership. This approach supports the changes necessary at the organizational level through changing mindsets, perceptions, and behaviors at the contributor level generating a shared, inspiring vision and strategy to drive organizational transformation and learning. The maturity of an organization to adopt cloud and transformational solutions is dependent on the leadership style and full support of the C-level executives, directors, and senior leaders.

Leadership’s role is to establish a baseline to measure organizational readiness for cloud adoption. As a leader, gather the insights necessary to know where the organization needs to support transformational initiatives and how they are performing across multiple key business areas. This facilitates making decisions regarding talent acquisition and the required level of training needed for current employees, as well as the acceleration of recruiting and skill-building needed. This baseline informs the speed and the success of your cloud transformation.

Assess the current business operations, processes, procedures, people, and change to identify gaps in the organization’s ability to adapt and adjust, as well as adhere to compliance aligned with the goals and direction supporting the business outcome.

Leaders should apply thought leadership and design thinking to identify skillsets needed for growth and sustainability of operations during transformational initiatives, and continuous innovation to drive the desired business outcome. The formation of a leadership team with a focus on Transformational Leadership will assist in building a transitional roadmap supporting the vision and strategy. Implementing this approach will prove valuable to aligning the organizational structure with a culture that adapts to innovative trends, impacting competitive environment and industry.


Establish a Transformational Leadership Office (TLO) consisting of a Chief Transformation Officer and additional supporting roles comprising representatives from the various C-level executives, including the chief executive officer (CEO), COO, chief financial officer (CFO), chief data officer (CDO), chief risk officer (CRO), chief information security officer (CISO), CIO, CTO, CHRO, and business unit leaders as appropriate who will provide executive sponsorship, executive vision, and executive guidance. This office will be responsible for changing the way people in the organization think, how they behave, how they measure success, and steadily aligning the culture with the strategy and vision. The TLO will also develop transition roadmaps to address identified areas that will impact organizational alignment, operational processes, procedures, training, and development of employees and services. For more information, refer to The Agile Organisation: Changing our Worldview blog post.

Implement a structured process based on people and change that will guide the transition of employees to support cloud adoption. Engage the various C-level executives and business teams to understand the impact on desired business outcomes they are trying to achieve. Use the structured process to define the requirements for the support needed to facilitate the outcome. Ensure all stakeholders know exactly what’s being asked of them, why it needs to be done, and to what standard. The next step is to assign employees an individualized transitional plan (if it’s out of a typical Human Resources (HR) annual cycle), adding accountability to provide direction, and having them demonstrate their support of cloud adoption and transformation initiatives.

The TLO will sustain a focus on people, culture, and change, establishing the organization’s cloud readiness and transformation initiatives. The entire organization will significantly affect, and be affected by, your organizational culture. Understanding these cultural implications, your organization's receptivity to change, prior change successes and failures, communication patterns, organizational structure, and the level of executive sponsorship, commitment, and alignment, are all important elements of building a successful approach to cloud adoption. This process, which we call the AWS 6-Point Change Acceleration Framework, is a highly flexible and scalable framework for fitting the needs of the transforming organization.

The AWS Change Acceleration 6-Point Framework and Organizational Change Management Toolkit helps prioritize the steps that cloud leaders and their teams must get right to realize the desired outcomes of cloud adoption.

The important role of middle managers should not be ignored. Data suggests that people prefer to learn about changes impacting their daily work from their manager. But keep in mind that middle managers are often stretched too thin, overloaded with daily tasks and personnel issues, balancing a tightrope between strategy and implementation. While providing support to middle managers, senior leaders should model the expected behavior. In doing so, keep these five change management obstacles in mind:

  1. Lack of executive support and active sponsorship.

  2. Lack of effective communication led to misalignment.

  3. Lack of change buy-in and solution support created resistance.

  4. Limited knowledge and resources for change management.

  5. Change-resistant culture and attitude.


The Transformational Leadership Office builds upon managing alignment, direction, expectations, and development for the teams across the organization. Alignment is implemented through a top-down/bottom-up approach, aligning internal stakeholders across business unit leaders and directs, and tying jointly with Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). Refer to the Connect Your Technology and Business Strategies with These Two Frameworks blog post for more information.

Direction creates excitement and sets the tone for your organization’s transition to use innovative cloud capabilities. Change creates new role requirements needed to support migrating and using cloud technologies, and creates opportunities to drive workforce transformation as the method for equipping the workforce with the training and skills necessary to keep up with the changes in your organization’s transformation strategy.

Implementing the plan for training your workforce in the specific technology areas ensures that teams build the right skills based on your organization’s initiatives, as well as developing a training pipeline that is future-focused to meet demands for the organization transformation.

To accelerate cloud adoption and help your organization change the way it thinks, decides, and behaves, enlist a core team of cloud experts within your enterprise to scale cloud proficiency to the entire organization. Many organizations establish these groups as sharing mechanisms that complement their formal training programs by helping to build on current knowledge, while incorporating the new. Known as Cloud Centers of Excellence (CCOE), these teams are comprised of a Cloud Leadership team, a Cloud Business Office, and Cloud Platform Engineers, with cloud experts from different roles within the organization, such as developers, network engineers, database administrators, and security and finance experts.

A CCOE can add value by:

  • Serving as a change lever to help the organization accelerate changes in how they think, behave, decide, and innovate using cloud.

  • Accelerate sustainable autonomous working by implementing standards based on best practices.

  • Empowering cloud-driven product teams with a self-service environment, minimized disruptions, and increased productivity.

  • Programmatically optimizing agility and value of cloud scale through ongoing risk mitigation.

Changing behavior and developing employees, leaders, and teams fosters a culture of continuous learning, where people have permission and are actively encouraged to learn and experiment without fear of failure. Instituting this culture starts at the top. Senior leaders should align on and commit to employee development as a business imperative and priority.