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The corporate intrapreneur: Creating the context

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In this, the fifth in a series of guest posts for Procurement Leaders from Giles Breault and Sammy Rashed of The Beyond Group, we investigate the idea of breaking out of the constraints of a role and thinking and performing differently to build a different kind of function.

This is our fifth blog in our series about how organisations become more intrapreneurial even as they may exist within much larger corporate frameworks. Frameworks, which even though they may espouse the notion of intrapreneurialism, often act oppositely or even in a hostile manner to anyone evincing any of the characteristics that we think make for a great intrapreneur.


Time and time again, through the coaching of individuals we have repeatedly come across the ‘Help! I’m an intrapreneur trapped in a risk-aversive company’ syndrome. We haven’t exactly got an acronym for this ailment, but it is so pervasive that a clinical definition is wanting! There are lots of reasons why highly capable people find themselves in this position and who ultimately feel constrained, over-regulated and frustrated. Unfortunately, highly capable but frustrated people don’t stay very long in stale organisations and seek out where they can make a meaningful contribution.


Our belief is that it is not enough to sprinkle highly motivated would-be intrapreneurs throughout a company and then sit back waiting for great things to happen (you would be surprised at how many HR systems do exactly that with “high potential” individuals). Intrapreneurs must reach beyond their own self motivations and begin to “create the context” to help and lead others to become intrapreneurs themselves or at the very least stand out of the way of those trying to make progress.


Creating the context often starts with understanding the company objectives in a team oriented way. You might ask “Shouldn’t an intrapreneurial team start with their functional goals as a first place to look for their burning platform?” In our experience we are always amazed at how narrowly focused and inwards looking department goals become and how very often they bear very little connection to the company objectives or in some cases seem to operate in opposition to them.

We advocate that any team look to how they contribute directly to the goals of the company and use that as the basis for enlisting others. Another way to look at this (which is highly applicable to procurement teams) is to look downstream to the problems that your customers want to solve. If you and your team are working to solve a customer need, we say you have created the ‘PULL’ for a transformative project. People will begin to count on your team’s success and will gladly support the effort.


In our mind creating the context has four elements.


  1. Positioning: We have partly described this already. This is the process by which an organisation identifies and attaches itself to a higher need. This is a fundamental act of alignment.

  2. Define the Burning Platform: One of our close business friends, who incidentally lectures on intrapreneurialism; Mark Bidwell, has been working with us to launch our Corporate Intrapreneurs Forum. In his recent interview with Dorie Clark [Reinventing You, 2013; Stand Out, 2015], she advocates a three-step process to constructing an environment of success for new ideas: build a network, build an audience and then build a community.

  3. Buillding your teams’s MTP (Massive Transformative Purpose): Intraprenuerial leadership is an art, with no fixed boundaries and lots of flexiblity. Good intrapreneurs understand how not to force conflict but adapt and collaborate along the way to an objective. Ed Catmull, president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation, in his Creativity, Inc. book, states that “Management is creative activity, not controlling activity” and that “successful leaders embrace the reality that their models may be wrong or incomplete”. This means that no single way to achieve an objective is right – prepare to be agile.

  4. Bringing the outside in: Recognise that learning from others not only teaches you something but also can be used to enlist others in your efforts. We often host benchmarking sessions between companies (particularly in the procurement field). We are astonished how quickly organisations are willing to adopt new ideas when it realised that someone else has already done it before successfully. Use others to get your message out and build your team.


While there are lots of other things that intrapreneurs can be doing to drive their agenda forward, our overriding recommendation is not to make your journey a solitary one. Building a core of co-committed people will not only help achieve objectives but creates a mind-set that ‘we are all in this together.’

We cannot stress this point enough; a solitary journey of a lone intrapreneur drives disillusionment and often fosters animosity towards the organisation and others. A team of intrapreneurs is a self-re-enforcing community.


In our next blog we will deal with one of the biggest fears of all intrapreneurs (and entrepreneurs for that matter) – outright failure.


Part one, Part two, Part three, Part four. Stay tuned for this monthly series on Procurement Leaders.

Giles Breault and Sammy Rashed are co-founders of The Beyond Group.


Giles is executive coach & advisor to innovative companies, executives and individuals providing leadership, knowledge, and experience across a spectrum of business activities including; global procurement function leadership, productivity, and business services.

Sammy Rashed is a career-long intrapreneur who created every one of his roles over 25 years experience, ultimately making the leap to become an entrepreneur. He now focuses on his productivity advisor, procurement strategist, and developer of future leaders roles.

This contributed article has been written by a guest writer at the invitation of Procurement Leaders. Procurement Leaders received no payment directly connected with the publishing of this content.

Giles Breault
Posted by Giles Breault

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