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Our guest author today is Susan Foley, Managing Partner, Corporate Entrepreneur

The 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey paints a realistic picture of the challenges that organizations face as they deal with the impact of Industry 4.0 and the growing unrest of millennials and Gen Z in the workplace.

Not only are millennials disappointed, they are discouraged with the lack of support and professional development by their organizations to prepare them for the future.  Those individuals who plan on staying more than five years with their current employer say that part of the reason is their organizations commitment to helping them better prepare for Industry 4.0.  The rest are open to jumping into the Gig economy as a way to take control of their own destiny.

The news, however, is not all negative.  It points to an opportunity for organizations to reinvigorate, re-energize and redesign their organizations to take advantage of this new world.  The report touts the value of Industry 4.0 in freeing up routine work for more creative, more value-based, socially conscious work that is aligned with the needs and desires of millennials and Gen Z.

The roadblock seems to be more clearly at the top of organizations.  Beyond all the rhetoric the main focus of many organizations remains profit.  According to the Deloitte Survey, there is a wide gap between the priorities of millennials and those of the organization.  Although millennials and Gen Z understand the value of profit to the organization they also realize the value that business can bring to solving some of society’s pressing problems.

Intrapreneurship can help organizations achieve both these goals. There is no question that Industry 4.0 will impact every company, industry and country in the world.  Organizations that realize this will thrive, those that don’t will eventually wither away.  That’s not to say that Intrapreneurship is the silver bullet but it is a mechanism for helping organizations change, adapt and create not only a profitable future but an impactful one.

That said it will not happen just by adopting Intrapreneurship as the latest management fad.  It has to be integrated into the fabric of the organization and into the hearts and minds of the executives at the top of organizations.  Too often executives support these intrapreneurial efforts only to sit on the sidelines and watch from a distance.  That doesn’t work.  Executives need to not only support it, they need to be engaged in the process.  Seeing and doing are not equal.  What has been missing in many organizations is more relevant, experienced-based and entrepreneurial professional development.  Plus an understanding of the Industry 4.0 elements that are impacting business.

Professional development is required up and down the organization. This is especially true when it comes to Intrapreneurship.

Over the years we have seen executives in organization after organization fund and promote professional development of Intrapreneurial efforts without being part of that process.  They ask their subordinates to assess, build and develop the capabilities that are needed to be intrapreneurial but they are often not willing to do it for themselves.  This is the great divide.

Not only are these executives missing the opportunity to build the capabilities that are needed to be an intrapreneurial leader.  They are unable to effectively contribute to closing the gaps that surface between the core business and the new businesses that their organizations are developing. It is often these types of issue that stall and derail intrapreneurial efforts.  Many executives are unable to bridge the gap between these two worlds. Two worlds that will inevitably collide.  Not only do executives lose because of this, the organization as a whole loses as well.

We can appreciate the inherent feeling most of us go through when beings assessed for capabilities we may or may not possess.  It can be unnerving.  Yet, we are talking about a new set of capabilities that have not always been part of the core set needed in the existing business.  So it is not surprising when we hear executives decline to assess themselves or look at their own capabilities.  Perhaps they think they won’t fair as well given their work in the existing business.  This is a false belief.

It’s a false premise because what we found is that most executives possess the key capabilities, it is just the degree to which they possess it.   The depth of a capability is often a reflection of their experience or the types of projects these executives have worked on throughout their career; strategic initiatives, stretch assignments, cross-functional leadership roles, special projects with high visibility, customer facing endeavors or new business ventures.   Aspects of these types of experiences provide a starting point for developing many of the capabilities that are needed to be an effective intrapreneur or intrapreneurial leader.

It is like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it becomes.  You may not even think you have it in you until you flex your muscle.  That is exactly what we found in our work with senior executives across a wide spectrum of companies and industries.  The most effective intrapreneurial leaders had selectively and proactively raised their hands for assignments that were outside the norm of the existing business.  Assignments that were strategic, future oriented, needed cross-functional collaboration, required a deeper understanding of customers, presented the toughest challenges, the hardest problems to solve or risky decisions to make etc.  This was one part of their professional development roadmap.

These intrapreneurial leaders also wanted to understand their starting point in terms of intrapreneurial capabilities.  They wanted to know: Where they were now? Where they needed to go? How they could get there?  They welcomed getting a more comprehensive assessment of their current capabilities.  They were open to seeing themselves in a new light; their strengths, areas needing development and ways on how to proceed.  It gave them a baseline to work with, a plan to move forward and a measurement to evaluate their progress down the road.  This was the other part of their professional development roadmap.

Yet it is this second roadmap where we see the most resistance from senior executives.  They are willing to hold a mirror up to others but not to themselves.

We applaud those organizations that are taking their executives through the same rigorous professional development programs as their potential intrapreneurs. These executives have a richer understanding of the nuances that are required to support, engage and lead intrapreneurial efforts in their respective organizations.  They can more clearly see both sides of an issue, understand the impact any one decision can have on the business and are better able to deal with roadblocks they encounter along the way.  In doing this they gain respect from their employees, their peers, the CEO and Board.

Executives that walk this professional development roadmap bring years of wisdom from the past and new learnings from the present to help create a future that helps integrate these two worlds.  The ability to bridge the gap between the core business and the new business they are building highlights the real value that executives can bring to Intrapreneurship. They join the ranks of the one percent of leaders inside organizations that can truly be called Intrapreneurial Leaders.

Leaders that can exist in the core business at the same time they are building new ones are leaders that are able to cross the great divide.

Susan Foley
Managing Partner
Corporate Entrepreneurs LLC
Office: 781-662-9513
Email: [email protected]
www.corporate-entrepreneurs.com