Four Guidelines for Supporting Your Lean Intrapreneurs

When I was in my MBA program during the late 1990s, I “majored” in entrepreneurship.  One class I took during that time was a class on becoming an intrapreneur- an entrepreneur within an organization.  As competition has driven the need to change for many companies, their existing culture doesn’t allow for risk-taking.  Ben Franklin said, “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”

How does intrapreneurship impact your lean transformation and why is it important?  The individuals you select to lead the organization as Lean coordinators or Six Sigma Black Belts are intrapreneurs.  Maybe they haven’t been tasked with developing a specific new product, but we have tasked them with bringing about change within the organization.  We have asked them to coach and drive improvements on how work and processes get accomplished. Bringing creative solutions to problems within an established company sounds very much like an intrapreneur to me!

Here are four guidelines that every organization should consider when developing the infrastructure to support these intrapreneurs.

  1. Provide a defined time frame for participation. It is important for employees engaged in leading change that they are engaged in that activity for a defined period of time.  It is useful to have them as part of the overall Lean Governance Team and that membership on that team is for a set time frame.  A minimum of a year and a half before they move on to other activities within the business.
  2. Have defined goals for the business. The freedom given to the intrapreneurial change agents is in how to approach the work, not the goals the company is trying to meet.  Establish the KPI’s the business needs to improve, deploy your intrapreneurs and get out of the way. It is important to have regular check-in activities so they feel they are a part of the larger business team.
  3. Choose wisely and provide training. Give the employees you select as your intrapreneurial change agents a large amount of autonomy and freedom.  Make sure you choose employees that will succeed in that kind of environment.  Look for employees who are humble, hungry and smart.  Depending upon how long they have worked at the organization, they might have to receive training on improving creativity, Lean tools and methodologies.  Provide that training so that they can be successful.
  4. Half Time Adjustments. Intrapreneurs and change agents can’t be afraid to review what is working and pivot if the results are not happening.  As part of the Governance team, they should review their results and ensure their efforts are improving the KPI’s.  If not, they may need to try something else.  It’s great that they are hungry to drive real change, but it’s important that they are humble enough to accept feedback and review.  Hopefully, they realize that if the business is not seeing the results, they might have to pivot and try additional projects or methodologies.

As you begin your Lean Innovation, keep these four guidelines in mind.  As we progress through the culture blog posts, I will provide additional information regarding a successful Intrapreneurship infrastructure.

As always, it is an honor to serve you and I hope that you and your company are getting better every day!

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