According to the Hay Group, intrapreneurship is the new “buzz” word.  It has finally reached a level of acknowledgement, acceptance and adoption. As Intrapreneurship takes on greater prominence in organizations it is important for you to ask if the commitment is there to support, develop and integrate it into the culture of the organization. You need to ask yourself the same questions. Are you committed to intrapreneurship and what that entails?

For many organizations intrapreneurship is a response to a number of factors including a slow-down in growth, demands to increase levels of innovation and productivity, a shortage of qualified candidates for new positions, a new set of work demands from the Millennial generation, the need to improve levels of engagement, and pressure to retain existing employees who are no longer challenged or interested in climbing the traditional corporate ladder.

These are all solid reasons for engaging in Intrapreneurship but beware that organizations have been enamored with other “buzz” words and management practices before that never actually got integrated into the fabric of the organization.  Intrapreneurship is not the next management fad – it is a business transformation. Not something that can only be part of this year’s strategy but an integral part of the way organizations do business now and in to the future. It is a behavioral change that takes place at the individual and organizational level.

Organization must demonstrate their commitment to intrapreneurship by developing new policies, procedures and practices that enable intrapreneurship to thrive.  It must become part of the corporate strategy, new management practices must be put in place, different metrics and measurements are required, creating a learning environment is important, and developing entrepreneurial competencies is critical. Having the right people in place to lead, support and direct resources toward entrepreneurial pursuits is required. Leveraging resources across organizational boundaries, collaborating with external partners and integrating customers into the development process.

These are things that organizations can start doing without disrupting the organization. It’s not a revolution but an evolution of transforming the company to be more entrepreneurial.

It isn’t something that can be taken lightly, once your organization starts down this road there is no turning back. Jumping in with both feet can be a trap that creates chaos without much progress. Engaging too slowly may discourage and disappoint those who are eager to drive the change. It may raddle the nerves of some of your most loyal leaders and employees. There are hidden obstacles and roadblocks that can easily derail it and leave things worse off than they were before the organization started down this path. It may set a precedence on changing how work will get done that you may not be able to undo or turn back from. That’s not to say that it isn’t important or worthwhile doing. It’s exactly what organizations need to do to redesign, reinvent themselves to adjust to this new economy.

My concern is ensuring that you as an Intrapreneur are committed to this role and aligned with the organization. Like an organization once you start down this professional path it is very difficult to turn back.

The freedom and flexibility that comes from being an intrapreneur is what keeps you energized and engaged. The excitement of working on the most difficult problems and challenges is what inspires and motivates you. Dealing with ambiguity, uncertainty and complexity enable you to adapt more readily to a rapidly changing environment. Testing your own skills and capabilities enable you to see what you know and don’t know about yourself. Learning to live with success and failure provides insight that can only be learned by experiencing it. Building a portfolio of intrapreneurial experiences lay the foundation for success now and into the future. This type of experience changes you personally and professionally. There is no turning back.

Going back to business as usual will no longer cut it. You’ve changed even though the organization and your peers may not have. You see the organization in a new light.  You’ve found out what you do well and not so well.  You now know what you like to do and not do.  You’ve pushed the boundaries of what you thought you were capable of doing.  You stepped outside your comfort zone and survived, even thrived.  You see yourself for who you are at the core. You now understand what you need to be satisfied and fulfilled at work. You see what it takes to be true to yourself.  These are valuable lessons learned but they are also requirements you will need moving forward.  They define you and define what you will want and need in the next opportunity.

These are also the things that leave intrapreneurs out of sync with the rest of the organization. After an intrapreneurial experience you may feel like you no longer fit.  This is especially true if there isn’t another challenging opportunity for you to pursue.  Many intrapreneurs get discouraged, disengage and leave the organization. They have seen what is possible but the rest of the organization may not. They see opportunities that others do not.

This was something that happened to me while building a new business for a Fortune 100 company years ago.  Most of my team were existing employees who’d been with the company for years, in one case over 20 years.  We were creating a new business, a new product, and a new entrepreneurial culture.  Just as we were getting ready to launch this new business, the division we were in was sold which orphaned our business and left all of us without a job.  Although everyone was offered an opportunity to stay within the core business, thirteen out of the fourteen people on my team decided to leave and pursue other more entrepreneurial roles.  None of them could see themselves going back to the core business.  They had all changed but it was clear that the core business had not. The company was not committed to becoming more intrapreneurial, they had seen our new business as an investment not a way to transform the business.

That’s why it is important to understand not only your commitment to intrapreneurship but your organizations as well.  In order for Intrapreneurship to work you and your organization must be aligned and committed to it.

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