Tuesday, January 29, 2008

people are drivers of intrapreneurship

thanks hari, you are absolutely right, it is a good first step for an organization to look at inducting new people who can look at the organization from the outside, which means more objectively, diagnose the problem and recommend solutions. you basically need fearless thinkers, fearless in the sense of those who are not afraid of trying out new things from fear that they could go wrong and get blamed. typically the new broom sweeps clean simply because it does not know yet, otherwise; as it ages, it starts coming up with more and more excuses as to why it cant sweep clean with nary an attempt at ensuring it.

not all organizations have the luxury of letting go of old people and bringing in new ones ; most organizations have to try and work around their existing resources, which means dealing with calcified mind-sets too.

Years ago I used to be the Marketing Manager for India's leading financial daily which had a small circulation base, but because the costs were low, they made profit just on subscription and did not need a rupee's worth of advertising. i remember the uphill struggle i had when i first recommended that we look at advertising from hospitality, travel, and executive lifestyle products, all the naysayers ganged up on me and said : these people wont advertise with you because all their ads are in colour and you dont have colour.

in all innocence i said, so let's have colour. and everyone reacted as if i had uttered something sacriligeous. colour? no way. colour means frivolous. our paper is for the serious-minded business men, how dare you introduce colour and make it into a girly newspaper!!

also a market research agency had conducted extensive survey and had come to the conlcusion that introducing colour in a financial daily was tantamount to committing harakiri. so colour was an absolute no no!!

fortunately i had a boss who wasn't exactly adventurous but probably wanted to be indulgent (she will see the error of her ways soon enough!!), so he said go ahead and launch colour, i will give you three months' time to make a success of it. if you dont, i would like you to put in your papers. i was young and brash and i took up the challenge.

in one month we earned our entire annual budgeted revenue. and the whole organization then woke up to the potential goldmine that they were sitting on. needless to say, colour was launched, it stayed, it succeeded to such an extent that today it is unthinkable that there was no colour just a few years ago in this financial daily.

and i left two years later to think more unthinkable things in other organizations!

Monday, January 28, 2008

I for intrapreneurship, I for implementation

There is an excellent ad of IBM on television these days. The guy goes on and on about how I is for ideation, I is for innovation and I is for invigoration. and she says I is for implementation and he looks crestfallen and says I knew i forgot something very important....

No amount of ideation, innovation can invigorate an organization unless the ideas jump off the drawing board on to the market place. Implementation is the key driver. Every organization is necessarily led by sales and any intrapreneurial initiative in any aspect of the organization eventually translates to more sales. that's the way the biz works. and unless intrapreneurship is backed by implementation, which means that not only should organizations commit time and resources to implementing, but the whole team should buy in into its implementation, ideas and innovations will remain empty shells, like forgotten curtains, flapping in an abandoned house.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

need for intrapreneurship

thanks hari for the comment, here's my reply.

whilst the entire organization may feel that there is a need for intrapreneurship, it is only top management that can decide whether to go in for it or not, because as i said in one of earlier blogs, the top management has also to commit resources to introducing intrapreneurial measures as well as seeing those measures through to their logical conclusion.

before espousing intrapreneurship, one crucial decision that management has to take is, from the organization's perspective, what is/are the reason/s for doing so. is it that traditional methods of biz have lost their effectiveness, is it competition which is growing both in number and in sophistication, is it rigors of global competition in one's own backyard, is it new technology which is making the old production process redundant, is it that the world over, giant companies are right-sizing so as to improve productivity and therefore profits and for you to be left behind would be suicidal ?

what is your organization's reason is the first question that needs to be addressed.

the answer is easy if there are some visible manifestations of a down-trend. eg if profits have dipped, if more customers have 'voted with their feet" (an english phrase meaning customers have moved to competition), if the topline has stopped growing and has even taken a dip, if costs have gone up, and every input of capital is yielding less and less return.

many organizations are willing to embrace intrapreneurship as a course-correction tool when they are able to see such visible downturns.

the point about intrapreneurship is that organizations dont have to (and should not) wait for the southward trend to be visible before embarking on intrapreneurhsip. Anne Mulcahy, CEO Xerox said it is very hard to embrace any new intiative when nothing visibly has gone wrong, if it aint' broke why fix it, but that is absolutely the right time to do it, because things havent careened out of control and change management will then cost less both in terms of missed opportunities as well as resources.

hari, to sum up, your vendors have to do an introspection to first identify what ails them and why and if these two questions are answered it should not be very difficult to answer how to redress them.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

so who are intrapreneurs?

intrapreneurs need not necessarily be ideators or inventors but they are the ones who definitely turn ideas into profit. without ideas, there is neither entrepreneurship, nor intrapreneurship. ideas are the core in both activities.

intrapreneurs are necessarily a committed lot. they commit time, money , conviction and passion. it is not just enough that they have conviction or passion, it is equally important that they have the capability to infuse the same throughtout the fabric of the organization. in this sense, intrapreneurs are also 'team aggregators', they bring disparate people together and bind them with 'we feeling' with the organization, so much so that every employee begins to feel ownership, take responsibility, herald change management, and behave in a manner as if it is his 'own' company.

intrapreneurs also wear a number of different hats, from being functional specialists, they morph into 'project mangers', dabbling in macro management. by definition therefore they move away from a single functional responsibility, say marketing or finance, to a larger P & L role. intrapreneurs thus become strategy specialists and successful strategy implementation demands that they become macro managers.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

is intrapreneurship same as TQM, continous improvement, etc

thanks hari for 'commenting' on this, TQM or any other quality initiative is not equal to intrapreneurship, but one of the ways of bringing in intrapreneurship into the organization. let me explain. let's say an organization located in Brazil is manufacturing match sticks and wants to export to Japan because it is keen on having japan in its market roster. let's say this initiative is a non-starter as it cannot compete with local matchstick makers in japan in terms of cost. so the Brazilian company decides to manufacture, what else, but chopsticks! and it puts in place best in class practices, as a result of which it is able to compete very effectively with local chop-stick makers who up until now had the japanese market on a platter and hence had stopped innovating.

you get my drift? the Brazilian company heralded intrapreneurial initiative into its organization by using quality tools to check-mate competition in a new market. as a result of this intrapreneurial effort, the company now has a new market, a new product and a new, cost-competitive organization.

it is not necessary that intrapreneurial initiatives should be always macro, in the sense, in every aspect of the organization. it could be in product/service, it could be a new way of looking at an existing market, or developing an altogether new market, it could be in an employee loyalty programme, it could even be a simple administrative process. a company doing away with the idea of a telephone operator answering the phone and introducing IVR to facilitate communication with customers, employees and biz partners is as much an intrapreneur as let's say a company that re-orients its customer or employee focus, or introduces an altogether new and disruptive technology.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

what is intrapreneurship

it is pretty much the same as entrepreneurship, except that it occurs within an existing biz structure. entrepreneurship refers to a start-up, a new venture, whereas intrapreneurship refers to restructuring existing biz as a survival strategy. the organization takes the initiative and commits resources to create and empower a team which will think and behave like entrepreneurs (meaning as if it is their own company as opposed to them working 'for' a company).

The upside of this is that it is already an up and running existing biz with its own biz momentum, its own market, its own product mix and of course its own infrastructure, so intrapreneurial effort is focused on creating an empowered 'intraprise'. as with enterprise, ideas are the starting point of all intraprises too.

the downside of this is that because it is an existing biz, battling the entrenched dogmas ('this is the way we have always run the biz; it worked well for us in the past, so why should we change it now?") tends to be highly energy-consuming. and sometimes, thwarting. and most times, frustrating.

it is not true that companies look at intrapreneurship when they start doing badly. good organizations are those that are good change managers. and good change managers are not just those who 'react' to change; they also pre-empt and prepare for change. so intrapreneurship becomes an integral part of an organization's DNA, pretty much like its vision and mission statements.