A proliferation of articles state that the key to intrapreneurship is building an innovative and entrepreneurial culture. Yet we know that nearly 70% of all change initiatives fail.

There is no doubt that intrapreneurship requires a magnitude shift in thinking and action that will not be embraced by a majority of individuals in organizations. It requires a strong leader to drive that change, to make it stick and integrate it into the fabric of the organization. This takes time, patience, a strong will, and determination. Not only on the part of management but on the part of the individuals engaged in the process. There is no safety net, no turning back, there is only moving forward toward something unknown, uncertain, and ambiguous.

So even if Intrapreneurship is a priority in your organization the elements that enable it must be in place to deliver on it. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your organizations strategy aligned with the resources and metrics needed to drive growth?
  • Is your organization developing the intrapreneurial competencies needed for success?
  • Are the systems and processes in place to support and sustain intrapreneurship over time?
  • Is the culture one that is conducive to intrapreneurship, learning, growth, and failure?
  • How innovative, pro-active and risk tolerant are the leaders and employees in your company?
  • Are the innovation goals and outcomes of the organization clear, practical, and achievable?
  • Is there support and ongoing commitment from the Board and senior leaders?
  • Is there a focus on profit and purpose for the near and long term?

These are the things that provide a window into the level of commitment your organization has for Intrapreneurship. Not all of these have to be in place but a majority of them should be in place for you to have a chance to succeed. If they are not then they will ultimately become barriers and obstacles to your success.

It is up to you as the Intrapreneur to evaluate the degree to which your organization has embraced intrapreneurship and for you to determine the amount of effort required to shift not only you’re thinking but the organizations as well. According to Barry Dym in his article, Integrating Entrepreneurship and Professional Leadership he states that, “The entrepreneurial journey is never straight or easy.”

He goes on to say that “One of the major reasons that organizational transitions falter is that leaders do not anticipate and account for uncertainty and difficulty that change brings to the entrepreneurial journey. Change rarely, if ever, follows a straight line, from conception to planning to realization.” It is an iterative process of discovery and learning. Your goal may be clear but your path to achieving it is not. Where you intend to wind up and where you actually wind up are not always the same.

This is compounded by the fact that change is happening at a faster rate. The accelerated pace of change is impacting all businesses. That makes acceleration a critical part of everything we do. Like a runner, it is not enough to be running fast, you must be running faster over time. Organizations need to be moving faster in a world that is increasingly more complex and uncertain. Change will not happen until someone steps up and drives change.

According to Louis Carter, “Leading change in an organization requires changing oneself first, then the individual team members, the team and then the organization.” That is why we’ve found that Driving Change is one of the top three competencies intrapreneurs need to successful.

It sounds simple but it is more complex. There are three key components to Driving Change – challenge, growth, and change. There are two sides to change – internal and external. There are two aspects to change – the ability to adapt to change and the ability to drive change. We’ve found that out of 10,000 people, Intrapreneurs score in the 94% percentile. That means that only 6% of 10,000 people scored higher than intrapreneurs when it comes to driving change.

Intrapreneurship is all about change and transformation. So, if change and transformation are not a strategic focus for your organization then Intrapreneurship is probably not a priority.

If you look at the things that need to be in place for Intrapreneurship to thrive from the list above you will clearly understand the challenge you face as an Intrapreneur. These are organizational issues that must be addressed to support Intrapreneurship. It is up to you to drive the change that is needed. Do what it takes to enable intrapreneurship to happen despite the potential obstacles that get in the way. This is all about changing the organizational infrastructure and culture – organizational transformation.

All this starts by first changing yourself and then those around you. Changing the way you think, act, make decisions, communicate, negotiate, influence, motivate, inspire, and solicit support. You demonstrate it through your work, attitude, energy, drive, and engagement. You then enable others to try new things, explore the unknown, take bigger risks, and push themselves beyond their own limiting beliefs. You show empathy and support through listening and understanding. You become a role model for them to follow and emulate. This is the other side of the equation – individual transformation.

Intrapreneurship can only become a priority when there are individuals willing to rise to the challenge and understand that nothing happens until individuals collectively pursue a strategy of change and transformation.

As an intrapreneur it is incumbent upon you to understand that the old rules no longer apply. They are a relic of the past. According to McKinsey’s Recovery and Transformation Services Group, “The most difficult part of transforming performance isn’t determining what to do but rather how to do it.” This is the ultimate challenge and opportunity for Intrapreneurs.

Making Intrapreneurship a priority is up to you and those around you that see a better way, a better future for your organization.

Originally published in 2018.

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