How do you tap the wild, chaotic energy of startups when your company has passed the stage of startups and is now well-established?
A startup is a company that is still looking for a steady, reproducible business model. They live in an adventurous, far west-like spirit where every day is filled with new things, new possibilities and new problems that create an environment with the right constraints to enable highly energetic, creative, innovative solutions. Once they find that reproducible business model; however, the goal shift toward execution and the environment lose its dynamic momentum.
As the pace of most business markets noticeably speed up and a plethora of new companies keep the landscape in constant motion, many business leaders are worried when they see these newcomers innovate and adapt much faster than their own company able to do.
It’s a matter of grass being greener on the other side: startups have the innovation power, but often lack the infrastructure and resources to put that innovation in motion, while established company have both resources and infrastructure but have lost the chaotic creative spark.
Intrapreneurship is a concept where established companies set up teams of brilliant people in an environment similar to a startup, but with the goal of innovating for the benefit of the whole company.
Intrapreneurs can quickly adapt existing product and services to keep up with the evolving needs of their markets. They can uncover new needs and wants directly from the customers and develop new solutions to address them. They can seek to replace the company’s cash cows by creating killer new solutions before somebody else does it.
Using intrapreneurs doesn’t require your company to transform. They operate in their bubble, granting them the freedom they need without impacting the rest of the company. Those teams are cheap to set up, and requires, nay demand, minimal meddling from executives. The best part? It lives or dies on the speed of delivery and usability of the solutions it creates, reducing the risks of wasting time and budget.
Intrapreneurs vs. R&D
“We already have an R&D team.” Intrapreneur teams and R&D teams aren’t interchangeable. They are two diﬀerent types of entities working under very diﬀerent conditions, and from which diﬀerent kinds of results are expected.
Intrapreneurs teams are meant to find strategies and validate them in the real world quickly. Speed and real world validation are the two key elements. Their role is less finding new paths than making small, quick course corrections to find the best market fit in the least amount of time.
When intrapreneur teams also spearhead innovation, they start from customer need and find out how to solve it. No moonshot, no purely theoretical approaches, only experiments grounded in reality. This leads to continuous improvement, as well as making visible new customer needs that can lead to brand new products or services.
As such, it makes intrapreneur teams excellent at incremental innovation and opportunistic innovation.
On the other hand, R&D teams have the mission, budget and time to explore brand new strategies, often wading into territory that no one considered before. R&D teams are expected to shake ideas, create stuﬀ that no one needs (yet) and find out what the future can be.
When also spearheading product/market fit (which they usually do with product marketing teams), they start from their experimental products or services and look for a suitable market for it, or create a brand new market around their innovation.
As such, R&D teams are meant for radical innovation.
Most customer-facing companies would do fine with only an intrapreneur team, keep up with the competition and always maintaining a top-of-the-line oﬀering.
But if your company can aﬀord both types of team, then you’re in luck. Each should have a clear purpose so they can complete each other. Let the R&D group create brand new stuﬀ, and let the intrapreneur group find out new reality-based paths of research for R&D, and then fine-tune the results and making it fit actual customer needs and generate an ROI faster.
Moabi’s approach to intrapreneurship
Moabi has a unique approach to teach intrapreneurship based on structuring chaos, mastering focussed experiments, crystal clear communications, and fantastic teamwork.
This approach excels at funneling raw creative energies into practical solutions for an established company to profit from.
We teach how to co-create the ideal sandbox
Intrapreneurship operates at the very edge of chaos, with constant changes, adjustment, and experiments. As such they require a lot more leeway than any other team in the company. Your processes, those pre-made decisions that help manage a complex organization, are literal roadblocks for intrapreneurs. They require something diﬀerent.
Free from the constraints of standard processes doesn’t mean lawless or aimless. Your intrapreneur teams still work for your company, and their goals have to remain aligned with yours.
To achieve that, we use Dave Gray’s Podularity model from the book The Connected Company. The model consists of forming autonomous teams, called pods, linked to the rest of the company through a sandbox, called backbone, where expectations, resources, data, and tools are co-defined between the pod and management. Pods are allowed full autonomy, as long as they keep within their sandbox, and they deliver results. Multiple pods can operate within a single backbone, or use diﬀerent ones if its contents are more appropriate to what they are trying to accomplish. Pods are also expected either to generate their own income or to produce ROI for the company in exchange for a budget. Failure to deliver will result in a failed pod, which is no big deal and doesn’t aﬀect the system as a whole.
For intrapreneurial pods, the backbone needs to be designed to reflect the needs of both management and the pods. Expectations and conditions of success need to be clear, just as the available resources are. The backbone is co-created between management and the participating pod(s) and kept in a constantly evolving state. In this context, pods usually receive a budget from the company as long as they deliver the expected value and respect the rules specified within the backbone. The company act in a way that’s closer to an investor in a startup rather than an employer. The pods self-manage, including managing their budget and personnel.
For companies that want to experiment with autonomous groups, or who want to restructure toward a more distributed model rather than a centralized one, Podularity oﬀers a great way to proceed step-by-step, learning how to do it better with every new pod and limiting both costs and risk associated with large scale transformation.
We teach how to run small, controlled experiments aimed at clear milestones
Work in a non-bureaucratic, experiment-driven environment has the opportunity to sink into sheer unproductive chaos unless channeled into a proper framework.
The framework needed by intrapreneurs needs to be flexible, experiment-driven, with clear milestones to keep focus. We use Eric Ries’s Lean Startup model as a framework. Created to productively funnel the experimental eﬀorts of startups toward tangible results and risk reduction, Lean Startup focus on building an early minimum viable product, test it with a group of paying early adopters, use the feedback to drive the development of a more complete solution that caters to the needs of the customers. The model uses a learning loop (Build → Product → Measure → Data → Learn) to continually improves and quickly achieves its goals. Unsatisfactory solutions are discarded. This description leaves out several key elements of the model, but it serves the purpose of an intrapreneur team well enough.
Experimenting is both an art and a science, and even naturally good experimenters need to learn the business realities of those experiments: how to frame them to maximize learning for the smallest cost, as well as how to manage risk and expenses. That business accountability for their experiments is key to what Moabi teaches intrapreneur teams.
The experiments exist solely to answer the Three Questions that drive every intrapreneurship endeavour. These questions act as progressive milestones, and the experiment can continue to the next question only if the answer to a question is “yes.” On a “no,” the experiment is done.
1- “Can it be done?”: The first question that needs to be answered to keep considering the solutio valid. A seemingly great solution that has no realistic way to be realized and implemented has to be discarded as soon as possible to shift the eﬀort toward a more realistic one.
2- “Is it viable?”: The range of what is doable can be impressive, but the goal is to provide the company with a solution that can be commercially exploited. When trying to validate this second question, the teams have to explore ways to reduce the costs of the solution, as well as to package it in a way that eases its implementation. If considered viable, it is time to move on to the last question.
3- “Can it scale?”: Companies rarely deal in single-unit or single-instance solutions. The solution needs to be available to a large number of customers. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about product, a service or something else: at some point, the solution will need to be available at scale and still remain viable. An un-scalable solution is of little to no use for the company.
Once all Three Questions are answered positively, the solution is ready to be delivered to the company for mass production or implementation.
We teach how to plan and communicate
For a centralized company, dealing with self-managed, autonomous groups can be intimidating. To make it easier, they should be seen as business partners or contractors rather than direct employees.
Managing a partner relationship requires clear, transparent communication. To achieve this, Moabi favours Jeﬀ Patton’s popular user story mapping technique, albeit with some tweaks to better serv the purpose of the company/pod relationship.
At its core, story mapping is a two-dimensional backlog where the work to be done is visually organized across all the elements of the project as well as in a series of incremental releases spread over time. Story Mapping shines by how easy it makes cooperative planning: all stakeholder participate in the story mapping session, resulting after a day or two of planning into a clear plan agreed on by all involved. No additional approvals required. Over time, as the increments of value are released, the plan will be revisited and adjusted, making it living planning.
To better serve the realities of intrapreneurship, the Three Questions are integrated to the story map as milestones. This keeps the intrapreneurial team focussed on their next goal, allows the company to monitor the team’s progress toward the goals and to decide to pursue to stop the experiment at each milestone.
We teach how to build a real team and self-manage it
Teams are in vogue at the moment. Being a good team player is a common expectation for most employees. And yet, the vast majority of “teams” are merely groups of people assigned to the sam task, not dynamic entities.
Nonobstant the fact that we’ve been asked to work in teams since we were kids, most people only ever experienced leader-driven squads where they were expected to do their assigned work. A team is so much more than that!
A great team is a self-organized, and often self-managed group, that relies on shared goals and boundaries to accomplish far more together than each team member ever could themselves. A good team will bring the best in its members. At Moabi, we firmly believe that learning how to create and manage a good team is an essential element of success.
We favour Pyrate Teamwork, a component of Maurice Lefebvre’s Pyrate System, to help would-be teams learn how to organize themselves, find common purpose, and share both responsibility and accountability. The approach draws on how mottled 18th-century pirates crews were able to selfmanage despite their diﬀerences and routinely take on threats much larger than themselves.
Get in touch now and let’s see how we can get you going quickly and safely.