Co-create visions that inspire your people
The overall vision of the organization is often too general to inspire the innovation you need from your people.
- Create a more specific vision for your area that demands both continuous and breakthrough innovation.
- Set some “10x targets;” areas of performance in which, by actual measurements, you’ll be ten times better in a few years. Motorola has been amazed by what they have achieved by setting 10x targets. On average, they achieve, or nearly achieve, about 75% of the 10x goals they set.
- Use a participative process to find out what really matters in your area. Ask your people:
How do you contribute to the overall success of the company?
- Who are your customers?
- What are their needs?
- What would happen if we served them a whole lot better for a lot less?
- What other needs could we fill?
- What new technologies could we use?
- What new skills do you need?
- What other services and products could you provide?
Co-create visions that inspire people in other parts of the organization
As we enter the age of knowledge-work and automation, the work of middle managers is changing. The job is much less about control and relaying messages up and down the chain of command, and more about tying things together laterally across the boundaries of the organization. This means that you are almost on issues beyond your authority to fix. You can’t get much done by issuing orders. You have to build coalitions and influence others to see what needs to be done and then it. Your job is not only stimulate the innovation productivity of your own people, but also to inspire creativity and flexibility in many other parts of the organization.
Ask for help
Once you have a shared vision, ask for help in defining it further and making it real. This requires the humility to say, I see roughly where we must go, but I need your creativity to figure out how to get there.” Watch to see who volunteers energy, ideas and action. Express gratitude for all contributions, even if they cannot be used.
Sponsor intrapreneurial teams
As we enter the innovation age, sponsoring innovation becomes central to the role of middle managers. Sponsoring innovation takes time both to work with the team and to protect them from the slings and arrows of an outraged bureaucracy. Top management doesn’t have time to sponsor even a tenth of the innovation needed today. If the organization is to have more than a few innovations, they will have to be sponsored by middle managers and first line supervisors.
Learn to recognize and value the entrepreneurial spirit. (See appendix B: The Intrapreneur Evaluation Checklist. Also see the book Intrapreneuring, Chapter 2).
Bet on people, not just ideas Remember the Venture Capitalist’s Manifesto:
“I’d rather have a class A entrepreneur with a Class B idea than a Class A idea with a Class B entrepreneur.”
Look closely at the people who are bringing an idea forward. Since nothing innovative ever turns out exactly as planned, their initial plans won’t work. But if they are a good team of intrapreneurs, they can adapt them until they do.
Do you trust the team to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat?
Keep the core intrapreneurial team
The system will seek to break up the core team and move members to other projects. While peripheral team members can move in and out as the demand for their talents changes, a solid core team is the memory of lessons learned on the way to discovering a workable pattern of success. You have paid for an expensive education about one specific idea. Don’t throw it away.
Ask challenging questions
Phrase your concerns as questions for the team to answer and the initiative remains with them. Give opinions, and unless you have succeeded in lowering your status with the team to being “” they will take them too seriously. Your casual comments while making conversation become commands. The team loses control, ceases to take responsibility for decisions, and without knowing it you become the intrapreneur. If you only meant to be a sponsor, you don’t have time to do the job intrapreneurial leaders job. Focus on asking good questions and let the team give the answers. Listen!
Learn to lower your status when with the teams
When visiting an intrapreneurial team, one way to lower your status is to lower your head. Sit down. Speak in a softer voice. Express uncertainty. Show respect for their opinions. Then you can stretch their minds and still expect them to do what they think is right.
Build a network of sponsors
As a middle manager, you probably will not succeed as a solo sponsor. Let others think this is their project too.
Keep faith with your intrapreneurs
If you believe in them, don’t let them down. If you are losing confidence in the idea let them know first. Make sure that if they succeed that they are rewarded well. Bolster their careers if they fail in a good and honest attempt. Sponsoring requires mutual trust: deserve their trust.