By Dave Hengartner, Co-Founder/ CEO of rready, SaaS startup supporting companies to unleash the biggest asset for innovation: its employees.
In the past five years, I’ve built up, advised, coached, accompanied and consulted over 25 different intrapreneurship teams in big and small organizations scattered across the globe. On this journey, I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. Let me share with you what I see as the crucial roles in every innovation team to run a successful intrapreneurship program.
Before we go any further, you might be wondering, what is an intrapreneurship program? Intrapreneurship programs allow employees to act like entrepreneurs within a larger organization. The programs are usually bottom-up driven and put employees into the driver’s seat. The intrapreneurs are intrinsically motivated and have a strong focus on getting things done. They initiate new projects and apply startup methods to achieve their goals
As you read through the roles below, don’t think of each role as representing an individual person. In smaller organizations, I’ve often seen one team member taking on two to three of the below-listed roles.
1. The Stakeholder Manager
Running a successful intrapreneurship program at scale means to, more or less, reach every corner of a company. Employees from different line managers start their intrapreneurship journey at different points. Projects challenging a given product or process will emerge and divisional initiatives will fight for the same resources. This calls for someone to do the political work. On one side, this means providing intrapreneurs with autonomy and security to tackle their crazy ideas. On the other side, it means to constantly engage with important stakeholders and lobby for the program to secure resources and buy-in from CEO to C-level to middle management.
2. The Guerrilla Marketer
An engaging intrapreneurship program stands out. Build a strong and unique brand, choose an unusual program color and make sure to differ as much as possible from the standard corporate environment. The guerrilla marketer leverages this difference and creates some unique campaigns around the program — ranging from posters on the restrooms to ice cream booths at the front entrance of the HQ to social media campaigns targeting employees, etc. This person makes sure your program is not just perceived as the next lame something but actually as a program people love to engage with.
3. The Operations Hero
The bigger the program grows, the more operations tasks you will face. This is a luxury problem, but still, it is important to be aware of. Think of tasks such as organizing a demo day, coordinating coaches and stakeholder meetings, or helping out to execute that big marketing campaign (e.g., calling up locations, coordinating volunteers, etc.). This is where the operations hero comes in. They are a helping hand for the whole team and can support, improvise and coordinate wherever needed.
4. The Pack Leader
Especially when engaging across locations and geographies, the pack leader becomes an important addition to the team. The pack leader heads a group of decentralized, local ambassadors and manages the update newsletter to subscribers and intrapreneurship enthusiasts. As the central orchestrator of a growing community, the pack leader is often spotting new opportunities first. For example, the new town hall could be used to position the program or the new company goals on sustainability could be leveraged in an idea campaign. As I mentioned above, these roles can often overlap, and I’ve often seen pack leaders be the same person as the guerilla marketers in more than one organization.