Intrapreneur Culture“Intrapreneurship is an organizational investment into developing a structured approach to using improvement, innovation and invention to achieve something new in the business whether this is for social or financial returns or both.” (Boost! Enabling intrapreneurs)

If the organization is making a commitment to sanctioned intrapreneurship, then you will start to see a shift in culture as you encourage the sense of the startup – encouraging free thinking, creativity, self-determination and a ‘can-do’ attitude.

The fallout of the 2007 recession was that

    a) organizations had to deliver more but with fewer resources;
    b) employees realized the lack of loyalty shown by employers and became more inclined to pursue other ventures;
    c) the sense of personal social responsibility began to outweigh corporate social responsibility and
    d) organizations became ill-prepared for when we entered a period of growth again

Post-2007, we have a new world and your organization needs to adapt-or-die. It’s weird to be making such a grandiose statement, but it does feel very much as if this is a truism: the public sector needs to change long-established ways of funding and working; the new private sector is replete with small-and-agile competitors.

Consider Instagram, an organization employing 13 people when it is acquired by Facebook for $1 billion. At it’s peak, Kodak employed over 140,000 people yet now employs 10% of that – and had to sell a huge amount of its patents in order to survive. The organizations that bought the patents? Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, Google and… Instagram’s owners, Facebook.

For now, this is the new way. In two years’ time, we might all be lauding the super-company again but, for now, it is the culture of the startup that is prevalent. The trouble is that so many organizations are sticking to their guns in terms of tradition (we’ve always done it like this) and there is a knee-jerk negative reaction to fundamental change.

So what can leaders do in order to allow their greatest asset (staff) to boost the organization?

Growth companies like Zynga credit a culture of innovation as their primary driver of success; Facebook maintains its hackathons; Google derives Gmail from its 20% rule; Apple introduces the world to the iPhone. These organizations take deliberate steps to nurture creativity at all levels and deploy new thinking to fix / accomplish /avoid.

Here’s a few aspects of the intrapreneurial organization:

Generate enthusiasm
Consider the drive of the Apple leadership when it came to the iPhone – a huge risk (they had no back-up marque product if the phone failed); $150m investment just to deliver the first handset in 2007; moving their chief talent from other projects to work on a super-secret initiative. Jobs was both champion and promoter of the product. Does your CEO stand behind and in front of your marque programs?

Be aligned
Enthusiasm is great. Passion is wonderful. Are people enthusiastic and passionate about things aligned to corporate strategy and values? Are people working on initiatives that are aligned to their own personal values? Here’s a radical question… do you know what the personal values of your people are?

Intrapreneur Banana
HP has its golden banana, Disney has the Fred Award, Prosek Partners pay a percentage of identified revenue to anyone who brings it to the table. Do you recognize contribution? People respond to recognition, it’s as simple as that. If your organization recognizes rather than penalizes failure then you can safely assume that, over time, more people will take a risk.

Cultivate self-determination
As organizations have grown, so have the layers of management. Best practice often cites that you should only have 5-10 direct reports. So do the math on an organization with 20,000 people and the maximum managed is 5 people and you probably have 5-6 layers of managers (1 CEO, 5 Directors, 25 Assistant Directors / Senior Managers, 125 Senior Managers, 625 Middle Managers, 3125 lower managers) – and each manager believes that its their responsibility to make sure that ‘things get done’ and that ‘process is followed’. By giving people autonomy in their areas of expertise (within appropriate legal guidelines), you free up a layer (at least!) of management who can then focus their energies into other areas of the business. Basically, micro-management kills innovation.

Intrapreneur BalanceBe balanced
People need to know that they work in a democracy – that they can speak their mind freely (in a constructive way) and that they will be listened to. If you still act in a “me boss; you employee” fashion, then don’t be surprised when you lose your talent elsewhere. Similarly, don’t play favorites – balance is about showing consistency (otherwise you will fall off the tightrope) and this calls for strong awareness (partly emotional intelligence, mainly common sense and fair-play).

By granting autonomy and being balanced, you are demonstrating trust. Your people will function better knowing that they are trusted; that their opinions are valued; that they are being treated as adults. When a leader says, “I can’t trust them to do it right” this is actually, “I am unable to explain what I want to see as the end result – I am a poor communicator”.

Jail CardSeek to fail
Lean intrapreneurship is many things – and one of the things is the willingness to ‘make-break-learn’. Encourage your people to get out there and screw up – praise them for it – praise them for having the guts to do it. And hey, if they don’t succeed… pivot! Take the lessons learned and apply this new information in another way. Seriously, short of fraud, I can’t think of an employee who ‘failed’ that was then sacked. The CEO of the hotel brand ‘Extended Stay America’ encourages employees to take more risks, even if they make a mistake. Jim Donald hands out miniature “Get out of jail free” cards to all 9,000 employees, telling them to call in the card when they took a big risk on behalf of the company. This CEO-level ‘protection’ helps employees to feel comfortable taking risks that can improve customer satisfaction. If mistakes are made, so be it. If your employees are not educated in assessing risks… whose fault is it?

Give them time
There are so many experts in the world advising businesses to allocate time for reflective thinking – great in theory but difficult in practice. Google enables people to take 20% of their time and invest into new ideas. WL Gore has ‘dabble time and 3M ‘bootlegs’. Interesting to see three organizations that give people time and these companies are successes. Coincidence? Give people an experimental working environment where they can explore new ideas – in many cases, this can be a co-working space or even the foundations of your own intrapreneurial incubator.

Remember who this is all for
Intrapreneurship, when all is said and done, is there to satisfy the customer – don’t forget this when you are working on a new process… is this process helping the customer or is it simply there to make our life easier, regardless of customer delight?

Avoid the normal
Being normal, average, middle-of-the-road and mediocre are sure signs that your business is doomed. The world moves on (ever quicker) and if you are simply striving to keep up with the organizations around you (your competitors), then you will lose.

Create hundreds of internal startups
Yes, your organization needs certain back office functions (administration, finance, HR, training, etc.) but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be monetized. Think back to the 20,000 employees, the fifth layer down has 3,125 ‘teams’ – this may be a department, a unit, a team, an individual… Brilliant! You have the headcount of a startup already – and you have access to the resources suitable to a 20,000-employee business. The multi-billion dollar diversified manufacturer ITW has a policy that, when a business unit reaches $200 million in revenue, the division mutates into two $100 million units. OK, so we’re not all billion dollar businesses – so consider a £300m local government that has over 160 service lines – that is 160 startups waiting to happen – focusing their innovation and monetization on giving the customer (general public) what it wants (public services).

Intrapreneur TribesDismantle the tribe
Take a look at your social media streams (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus, etc.). You accept invitations to connect with people on there (in the case of Twitter and G+, you would follow someone back or add them to a circle, respectively). Over time, you are adding and connecting to people with certain values – values similar to your own. Over the years, you amass contacts. Imagine this: one day, someone says something in one of the social media feeds that is so abhorrent to you that you delete them. You may even block them. Fair enough? Over time, you may do this three or four times. Unconsciously, you are maintaining a certain integrity of your network – and you all have the same beliefs until no one is dissenting. So you become entrenched in your views as you believe that ‘the world thinks like I do’. No. You have censored and blocked diversity. Countries like the UK flourish because of our ethnic diversity – and your organization needs the same. Swap people around, increase secondments, seek out disruptive thinking, network with the outside world – get a new view!

There is no denying that introducing intrapreneurship will be uncomfortable for some people and here is a harsh truth… they may have to be let go from the organization. Be prepared to fire people who don’t fit / reflect the culture – no matter how good they are in their post, if they do not inherently endorse the values and beliefs of your organization, then they are corrosive.

Contact Neil if you are considering introducing intrapreneurship to your organization.

Building Intrapreneur Cultures
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