“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” – Peter F. Drucker There is an increasing number of organisations that are seeking to enhance the personal effectiveness of their employees. Personal effectiveness goes beyond productivity and efficiency as it considers the impact of our work on our minds, souls and bodies. As a result, issues such as vision, personal meaning, a sense of fulfilment, creativity and productivity become key conversations.

Over the years, “intrapreneurship”, defined by Wikipedia as – ‘the practice of entrepreneurial skills and approaches by or within a company or at home’, has become a developmental initiative within many companies. The term itself dates well back into the 80s but has become more widely accepted and utilised in the late 90s, even to the point of being included in the American Dictionary. One of the most exciting concepts in intrapreneurship is the development of entrepreneurial competencies within the general workforce. My excitement has grown as I have presented multiple open dialogue sessions, called Conversations that Matter, within various organisations to discover the key competencies of entrepreneurs and explore ways of demonstrating such competencies in the workplace. The following competencies are most often reflected by participants in these conversations.

In my mind, all entrepreneurs start with a vision; a vision to meet a recognised demand, a vision to make a difference or even a vision to create an alternate outcome. The ability to see opportunities and threats is a key characteristic of every entrepreneur. In the corporate environment, the intrapreneur has his or her eyes open to possibility. They are committed to delivery and excellence and willing to think strategically. It doesn’t matter what size the project is, the intrapreneur looks forward, asking themselves the questions:

  • How do I do this better?
  • Where can we offer a better service to our clients?
  • How can we be more effective?
  • What have we missed?

One of the most exciting concepts in intrapreneurism is the development of entrepreneurial competencies within the general workforce.

From dreamer to doer
Once the intrapreneur has a vision before them they start looking at ways to practically implement their ideas. Key to this is an ability to recognise that intention without action will merely build long-term disillusionment. They weigh their words carefully, looking to build a support network around them that will assist in bringing that dream to life. These support networks are made of sponsors and colleagues.

Sponsors are typically individuals within the organisation that have positions of power and influence, who believe in the vision and who wish to see the intrapreneur succeed in implementing his or her idea.

Passion is the driver that keeps intrapreneurs pursuing their ideas. It is that strong feeling that evokes commitment no matter what the challenges are. I have found that the passion grows as more and more of the idea is implemented and results become evident.

Risk-taking and Accountability
The concept of risk-taking invokes the most fear in organisations. I think that this is because we are afraid that people will become cowboys, that they will take risks that will negatively impact the business. The true entrepreneur will only take very calculated risks that will have more than a 60% likelihood of success. In addition, they will stay accountable to those above them, monitoring the impact and results of the idea.

Personal Ownership
Without personal ownership of the idea, intrapreneurial vision goes nowhere. Personal ownership says, ‘I will take responsibility for getting the job done.’. Be it that individuals have to personally accomplish the goal or be it that the individuals access the resources of others, the buck stops with them. They are willing to adopt multiple roles and to consider multiple outcomes in order to see results. Flowing from personal ownership is initiative. Initiative is best defined as a readiness or ability to take action.

Often, the intrapreneur has to exhibit great patience and tenacity. Being a change agent, pioneer or innovator comes with its challenges. Within large organisations it takes time to implement new ideas as these often impact many stakeholders. Passion burns hot but will burn out quickly. Perseverance brings the sustainability and fortitude for results.

This is my favourite characteristic of intrapreneurship. This is where the right brain comes into play. Initially, as we take the vision for a new outcome, we create a strategy which may not look like what we intended. Innovation is the ability to think creatively, therefore finding alternate paths towards our outcome.

In closing, the words of Stephen R. Covey ring true: ‘I am personally convinced that one person can be a change catalyst, a “transformer” in any situation, any organisation. Such an individual is yeast that can leaven an entire loaf. It requires vision, initiative, patience, respect, persistence, courage, and faith to be a transforming leader.

Small Business Forum

The Small Business Forum is an independent network of entrpreneurs and small business owners established to encourage and support the creation, growth and development of small business in South Africa.

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