Over the last 15 years I have attempted in my own way to transform organisations into high energy, innovative, and exciting places to work. I have tried to create genuine intrapreneurial companies, taking sometimes stagnant, beige and deep- frozen entities, often kicking and screaming, to the sunlit uplands of a vibrant, brightly coloured place that is intrapreneurship. I have given my own sweat, not blood, tears, passion and commitment to the cause. I have made every mistake in the intrapreneurs handbook (which does not exist so don’t bother looking for it) often on numerous occasions. I have despaired, almost given up, felt I’ve failed, and sometimes experienced the warm glow of success.
The purpose of these series of musings is to share some of my experiences from the coal face, the disasters, the challenges the fun, the small stuttering steps forward. These rambling essays will not be some academic ideal world, sanitised version of how it’s done but rather the messy, sometimes chaotic one step forward two steps back reality from someone who’s been out there and attempted to do it. I have felt the knives in the back from jealous fellow managers. I have attempted to support vibrant workplace communities. I have made lifelong friends, and witnessed heroes transforming their place of work against all the odds.
Maybe you will read these proses and by reading them not make as many mistakes that I have made. Or maybe my words can give you courage to carry on walking the treacherous path of intrapreneurship when hope seems lost. Who knows this might encourage you to become a bad intrapreneur like me?
I would like to chat with you about what I believe are the important component parts required to build a robust and sustainable intrapreneurial organisation. I would like to debunk some of the fallacy’s peddled by others about this topic. I look forward to reading your comments. Please feel free to disagree with me, agree with me or share that wonderful anecdote that will help us all understand how to be a successful intrapreneur.
On our journey I wish to discuss Leadership, the power of culture, how to build a community of the willing and how we can keep our intrapreneurial culture fresh and relevant.
However, this time I would like to focus on you. Yes! You the intrapreneur who is going to start a revolution. The person who will transform peoples’ lives. The individual who will change your organisations destiny. I would like to discuss what you will need to succeed. So here are my thoughts as I sit here with the accolades, failures, scares and experiences.
I warn you there are lots of ‘R’ words coming!
Relentless – the reason most intrapreneurs (even bad ones like me) fail is because they give up, or get bored, or move on to the next big thing.
If you want to be a successful intrapreneur you need to understand that you will see no cultural change for at least three months. All your interventions will look as if they have failed. You will have dark days when all hope will desert you. Your fellow leaders will desert you. It will be then you must keep going. It will be then you must be strong. It will be then even though you feel alone you must stay confident.
Responsive – You need to have a nimble approach, continuously adapting to the present situation and the collective mood and attitude. Knowing when the community need lifting or leaving alone. Appreciating when you need to don the hat of the leader or the hat of the coach. The Intrapreneur who becomes the slave to one model or other will be the intrapreneur who fails. Creating an intrapreneurial organisation is more art than science. Each organisation I help transform is a new challenge. Each organisation will require me to use different tools in my toolbox and sometimes to create brand new tools.
Relationship Builder – Have the skill to adapt your message in such a way that is as meaningful for the boardroom as it is for the post room. You will need to be equally as credible to the warehouse operative as the Executive Director. You will need to be a connector, a persuader, a friend and a coach. You will need to have the grace to allow people to find their own path to intrapreneurship and not force them to use your route.
Relevant – You must be relevant. You must be the one who’s actions will lead to scratching the itch your organisation has. If the business needs profit you must be able to increase profits, if it is safety that needs to improve you must be the answer, if morale is low you must be the voice that asks how do we make our morale soar. If you are relevant you will be listened to. For us intrapreneurs we must be outcome focused and not input focused if we are to be listened to. We must be the people who help make the ship go faster.
Being an Intrapreneur is tiring, challenging and sometimes frustrating. However, if you do not give up it can be the most rewarding role you will ever have in your working life. GOOD LUCK IT’S WORTH IT.