I am passionate about helping organisations become Intrapreneurial. Supporting their cultural re-birth. Witnessing their transformation into vibrant, high energy, innovative businesses.
I feel real joy in assisting leaders and their teams to navigate their own course to their version of intrapreneurship. An intrapreneurial culture, which although naturally has common features with all other intrapreneurial organisations, such as adult to adult relationships, transparency, trust and energetic communities of the willing, still is their own unique version of intrapreneurship. A version true to their history, values and shared reality. I love helping them to write their own intrapreneurial book instead of making them read and follow somebody else’s book. I love supporting them as they design their own river to swim in and not forcing them to swim in mine.
From over 20 years of working in this area I have become convinced that Intrapreneurship allows a million flowers to blossom. Flowers of different colour, fragrance and size all best suited for the place they grow. For that reason I am saddened and frustrated that most self-appointed cultural, innovation, or Intrapreneurial experts pedal their snake oil solution that claims a one size model, fits all. Where I experience the beauty and diversity of the wild flower garden; they impose the bland beige fields of wheat.
The Human race seems resolute in its need to codify their world and to create ordered steps as a way of simplifying their messy, unpredictable world. In organisations we seem determined to dumb down organisational activity rather than celebrate its complexity, its disorder, and its beautiful confusion. As someone who started work in the late 70’s I’ve been sheep dipped with my fellow bemused colleagues into every next great new working model, each one with its own terminology and processes, with its own leaders and followers, with its own champions. I’ve seen them all come and go from Total Quality Management to Prince 2, Agile and everywhere in-between. I’ve seen organisational vocabulary reduced to a few meaningless buzz words. I’ve seen employees bullied for questioning the new religion and I’ve seen the zealot believers become the thought police ensuring the TQM group or Scrum behaves just like it says you must behave in the good book.
Once, as a Director in an organisation that had embraced Agile as if it was the only road to heaven and where you could not move for white boards, post it notes, huddles and scrums, I was told by a Scrum Master who was holding a stick with a plastic giraffe called Jeremy on it that I could not speak until I squeak. I understood this meant that I was required to squeeze Jeremy’s head. It was interesting to note that my look of distain was so equally matched by the Scrum Masters expression of shock as I launched the hapless giraffe out of the window and on to the nearby gyratory road system.
What do you think it is that drives gurus to design these over simple models to show us how to be innovative/ engaged/ resilient etc.? Or for intelligent and rational senior leaders to buy into these models hook line and sinker? Is it that it makes us feel we are now able to control the uncontrollable? Is it maybe that we are so desperate to find meaning and patterns in activity that we grasp the next fad so willingly? I am sure for some it is the wish to duplicate others success, the thought that if only I could understand their trick I could be successful too. I am also sure that herd mentality kicks in and we are sucked into the group think, the group talk, the group behaviours so that we can feel we are like the rest and we have our finger on the pulse, that we are modern thinkers.
I find it sad that so many organisations think that if they ape Google or Apple or Amazon they will become like them. Of course they will not because they do not swim in the same river, have the same history or the same DNA, and even if they could replicate their culture by the time it was embedded these pedestal organisation would have evolved into something else.
I find it sad that the Gurus and their disciples think they have captured the elixir of perpetual organisational success by creating an 8 step model, composing a special language so novel that Tolkien himself would be proud of it and describing complex, compulsory organisational structures that must be followed if success is to be won. I find it sad that for them it is the model and the language and the structures that are the most important things and not the outcomes they must have observed in a successful company in the first place.
I attend seminars where delegates will argue over the correct terminology that should be used or how many people should attend the scrum to optimise effectiveness. The attendees are like cult members, they remind me of the feuding Judean People’s Front and the People’s Front of Judea in the Life of Brian as they focus on the little and the insignificant whilst missing the substantial and the important.
I fear most models miss reality and misunderstand how people successfully work together. Organisations are not innovative because they have quality circles or incubators but instead are innovative because they have a culture that encourages colleagues to collaborate. Where everyone is clear on the direction of the organisation and each colleague is able behave as if they are running their own business.
My mantra is as soon as it looks like a model kill it, otherwise it will become stale and contrived.
Treat everyone as adults and let them work in a way that bests fits their talents.
Relentlessly describe the river you are all swimming in and the direction of flow then let the work community make the right decisions.
Co-create, then co-create again the way we do things around here, and…
Finally and most importantly be in awe of the beautiful non- conformist, organised chaos, dysfunctional , joyful, energised, involving intrapreneurial culture that is yours – not mine or another company’s but yours. Then you will be truly innovative, inspirational, customer focused and successful.