Intrapreneurs: 10 tricks to become the killer application for organizational change
Some weeks ago I met with a former colleague that had been recently promoted to a managerial position. He was happy because of the new situation, but something seemed to be wrong with him. “Great. You have been promoted -I told him-. But… could you, please, tell me what’s wrong?” He thought a little, and told me: “You are right. When I got promoted I imagine that everything would be easier; that my team would ask me for help or criteria; that my colleagues would ask me for new plans… that my decisions would be implemented because it was the boss. But it seems like if nothing had changed”.
And I told him: “Sometimes no matter how ‘big boss’ you are, how relevant is your position in the organizational chart. The most difficult thing that you have to deal is to change and to break the inertia in your company, and it’s not possible if you only use the formal structure (chart, responsibilities, procedures, reward system…).
“What you really need -I told him- is the killer application to provoke the change. What you need is more intrapreneurs in your team. Even more: what you really need it to be an entrepreneur yourself”.
That’s the challenge. To be a intrapreneur. All across organizations, no matter if big or small, you find people with the weird interest of improving things, making things better, make of their companies, units or teams best in class. These rare animals assume as their "comfort zone" exactly that others run away from: change, change, change. These people are continuously finding different ways to make things, even irrationally, it's in their DNA. Rules usually don't work too well for them and have an internal permanent frustration that moves them to evolve.
After the conversation with my friend, we discovered 10 tricks that anyone who want to change things and to change the inertia. Let’s see the tricks:
Trick 1. Choose the battles to fight in: Change is great but focus on what you CAN change. There are lots of things to change so choose based on answering two different questions: can you change it? Have you been invited to the party? If you see you cannot do it, find another battle. If it's too big, concentrate in small pieces of change. If you deliver differentially, at the end of the day, you'll find out that you've changed more things than expected. And of course, if you haven't been invited to the party, don't go!
Trick 2. Prepare the best sales pitch ever. This is about preparing a great argumentary. Do it, be ready, you'll need to use it a thousand times. The steps are:
- 2.1. Challenge the Status Quo. If you want to change something, first you need to answer the question: why do we need to change at all? Most people dislike change so this question will come. Be sure about it. And some will be really rude so be ready.
- 2.2. Share your vision. There's a second question coming from your colleagues so, let's call them, "change challengers". Ok, so what you want to do? Prepare a great answer. Be as bold as possible. Figure out where you want to be once the project is finished. THINK BIG!!! But remember, be realistic, figure out which boundaries you can afford to jump over and which you don't. One thing is been visionary, another is being a dumb. Once the answer is ready, use only a 10-20% of it. Do you think that people that don't want to change, and are probably far from being like you, are going to say yes to your dreams? Sorry, no, so tune it down. That will set the expectation of your organization on your initiative. But keep your own personal and private target in your first estimation. Fight for it, maybe someday it'll become real.
- 2.3. Define clear small steps to get to your vision. There's a third question you must answer: how do you want to do that? Probably they'll say something like, that's impossible, cannot be done because bla bla bla... First barriers mate! So define those baby steps. That's going to be your WORKING PLAN. That will define your success so be fair with your estimates. Not too positive, not too pessimistic. The right point is exactly what you are able to deliver
Trick 3. Win friends (you'll need them) and manage your enemies. You cannot change the World alone so win as many friends as possible. Read "How to Win Friends and Influence People" of Carnegie. It may help. Avoid creating enemies for free. There will be people that won't like you, it's natural, but don't generate negative sentiments around you, that will hinder something sooner or later. Actually you'll be surprised if you invest enough time on some people that initially may look negative, they can become your best allied.
Trick 4. Find ways around. Be creative! This is the moment of the bad news. Nothing is going to be ready to help you. Processes were created for another kind of business, the resources are always limited and probably you don't have all the skills required in your team. So be prepared to create ways around, imperfect solutions for all popping up barriers. Some good colleagues told us once: perfection is the enemy of what's good. That trick can be used whenever it doesn't break trick 5.
Trick 5. Don't compromise the quality of your delivery. When you find ways around (trick 5), sometimes you must compromise certain parts of your vision. That's OK whenever it will not affect your result. If after all compromises required by your organization, environment, resources, whatever, you deliver a piece of crap, nobody will remember that it's because of all the difficulties. None, you'll be a failure. Bad luck, no time for losers, go back home! One small hint, prepare your Santa's list with bullet points but make sure you know which of those you cannot renounce to.
Note: This rule doesn't apply if you are Steve Jobs. He never compromised his vision.
Trick 6. Bring your passion in! Work harder, work longer. No real trick. Talent is great. But hard working is needed. Simple. Waking up earlier and going to bed later helps. Be very efficient in your time usage too, it costs millions. And when you leave the office, disconnect your brain from business... if you can. And don’t forget one thing: people are lazy to read and to produce papers; so, the more you work, the more papers you produce, the more time you devote to the project, the bigger will be your competitive advantage.
Trick 7. Work with your external stakeholders. If it’s important to win friends internally, making friends among your external stakeholders is important too, probably even more. Believe or not, most of the times, you will get more recognition out of your company than inside it. So,work close to your customers, organizations, associations, suppliers… and help them. The more that you defense their points of view into the organization, the more they defend you and your company outside, and inside too.
Trick 8. Stop often, watch how things go and reshuffle plans. Sometimes the picture changes while you are working, so be ready to realize and react. And also iterate fast. If you can deliver pieces of what you are doing to others (in SW this fits well), do it and ask for feedback. That's really useful. Of course some trolls will show up and will try to put you down, don't pay attention to them and focus in constructive feedback. But listen more to those that say you the failures than the good things. Those will help you grow, will help you to be better.
Trick 9. Find inspiration wherever you can. No matter what you are trying to achieve, there's been people before you trying to do things that were more difficult than your challenge. Find them, read about them, listen to them and, if possible, meet them. They'll be glad to share, we've learnt that this kind of people are usually altruistic in sharing views, so be open to learn...
Trick 10. Have fun. You are going to be the weird guy, the enemy, the green dog, so at least have fun. If you are able to put distance in between things and you, that will make you happier and capable on laughing about all things happening around. A friend of us told us that when he was in a "war" of change, he used to meditate once per week and work out every day. We are sure that helps but we prefer laughing.
That’s all. Probably these tricks will put you in problems because they are inviting you to break the rules. Use them, or not use them. But anything you do, please don’t make visible your strategy, otherwise it will fail because someone may think that you are increasing your power into the organization. That’s why my friend told me: please, don’t tell anyone who I am. So, this will be our secret.
Picture: source 123RF