Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Scratching the Intrapreneur's Itch: the Lynearthinking Way

An Entrepreneur attempts to make profit by undertaking a task or business enterprise though risk and initiative.

An Intrapreneur is described as an employee of a large corporation who is given freedom and financial support to create new products, services, systems, and does not have to follow the Corporation's usual routines or protocols.

Whether one is an entrepreneur or an intrapreneur, these people are the risk takers and inventors of our time. They have an itch to scratch and they build a scratching post.  Then they find a way to make others want it to and bingo, we all have a scratching post.

Entrepeneurs have a reputation for being risk takers. They may be former corporate intrapreneurs whose revolutionary creativity and spirit scared the beejezzuz out of their conformity loving counterparts (and supervisors).

The fact is, to be successful in any business, both are needed. A visionary who cannot implement is a dreamer.  An implementer with no vision becomes irrelevant.

But there tends to be a clash of culture between the dreamers and the doers.  It is a classic case of pink flamingos and brown ducks  trying to co-habitate.

I believe that this chasm between the brown ducks and pink flamingos has its roots in the control based origin of strategy as a military tool.  When it was introduced into business thinking, the reigning mindset was one of command and control.

But since then, thinking has changed. We know that success requires engagement, creativity,reinvention and due dilligence. Therefore, the culture of the organization is the key to putting to rest this clash of the feathers.

An organization that values creativity, innovation, diversity and leadership is more likely to ensure the structures and procedures that are required to run a business also facilitate and encourage brilliance. Non-linear processes are in place to provide for incubation and expression of creativity.

The planning process is culture based.  It both mirrors the current culture and issues and can be used to enhance the culture.  

Organizations that are control based tend to create structures and procedures that are linear in nature, with decision making at the top of the organization. In this environment, proceses are linear and budget driven. I have seen as many as 9 budget drafts in a single process.  When this happens, nobody knows what is behind the numbers, and frankly, by that time, they don't care, and don't want to share their plans. So they spend the next year quietly implementing whatever plan they might have, reporting the bare minimum and quacking in code so nobody will ask questions. As this cycle continues, year over year, the same plans seem to be brought forward, and nothing seems to get done. The waters become stagnant.

People who want to get somewhere - the Intrapreneurs - become frustrated. And planning never gets off the executive table.

As a strategic planner with a penchant for creativity and a solid appreciation for due diligence, this is the Lynear way of thinking and planning.

1.  Executive sets the targets up front and communicates them so that everyone knows the appetite for direction, spend and speed. 2 buckets are put aside:  one for day to day operations, and one for development. Each "bucket" has its own own planning, decision making and reporting process.

A. Operations
  • Managers develop their operational plans and budgets that describe inputs that are required to run their business area. For example, an accounting department that runs the core activities of budgeting and reporting will need to define the employee requirements needed to perform the work.  
  • Each operational plan is reviewed against the already communicated targets and approved by the executive of that area. 
  • Once plans are approved and budgets are rolled up, they implemented and reported quarterly through a corporate process. 
B. Development
  • Establish an initiative  or developmental planning process whereby new or ongoing initiatives are planned, scoped and brought forward for discussion through a committee assigned to direct the development budget.  
  • Each initiative must describe what will be accomplished, how, when, the amount of employee weeks that will be required (this is subtracted from the operational plan), the technology, systems and capital required to implement the plans for the year, and the associated risks.  
  • The "Development Committee", comprised of senior members of the management team (not executive) debate the initiatives with the creators, and make a recommendation on the best use of the development budget. 
  • The executive can then review and approve the development plan.  
  • Approved initiatives are implemented with progress against plan reported quarterly through a corporate process. 

The Lynearthinking model facilitates an environment whereby planners own their plans and are responsible for leading implementation, which includes inspiring others to help them. Things that get done are reported. Things that do not get done are reported. Accountability is achieved.

The key to the Lynearthinking model is sustained leadership and commitment.  Once an organization commits to this path, the usual change - based reactions occur.  People may resist engagement if they do not understand what is being asked of them, if their leaders are not on side, or if they do not like to plan, and would rather execute.

This approach is one of cultural change and takes time to engineer.  Year 1 focuses on creating the process and understanding. Year 2 is about improvement, and year 3 it begins to feel operational.  Leadership commitment is required to sustain the change so that by year 4 and 5, the way of working has been established.

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