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Effective Use of Power in Intrapreneurship on a Workplace

In the sense of growing globalization of the market and free trade, businesses need to continually innovate in order to enhance their efficiency, profitability and reactivity. In this context the intrapreneural traits in the personality of every worker within the company is a must to stimulate and innovate current activity. Some authors even speak of an intrapreneurial school of entrepreneurship as such a quality is counted to be extremely important to provide efficiency and profitability for the company. In the following paper I would like to speak about the techniques and skills that the employee might need in order to become competitive on a workplace.

As long as the issue of intrapreneurship is a broad topic to discuss I will concentrate on a particular part of it which is the effective use of power in intrapreneurship on a workplace.

Effective Use of Power in Intrapreneurship on a Workplace

What does it mean, to intrapreneur with power? Essentially, it means efficiently using control in the cycle of intrapreneurship. I’ll seek to clarify the sense of power-intrapreneurship by describing the overall process in five steps (Brandt, 1988).

  1. Decide what your venture’s vision and objectives are. What are you trying to achieve?
  2. Diagnose the venture’s environment (especially the parent organization) to determine which individuals and groups are influential and important in achieving your goal.
  3. What are their points of view likely to be? How will they feel about what you are trying to do? What are their sources of power and influence? What responses can you expect from them?
  4. What are your sources of power and influence? What sources of power can you develop to gain more control over the situation? With your sources of power, which strategies and tactics for using power seem most appropriate?
  5. Considering the above, formulate a political strategy and courses of action to achieve the vision and objectives of your venture.

The first step is to clarify your vision and objectives. This clarification step serves two purposes: First, it provides a basis for identifying who, inside and outside the firm, will be affected if the venture accomplishes its stated objectives. Some people would almost certainly either want to help the venture or impede its development. Second, it enables the venture manager to identify what kind of help is needed for the venture to succeed.

The second step involves systematically identifying all the people, groups, or organizations on whom the venture’s outcome depends. These parties include: the major internal units that would be affected by the venture’s success (for example, departments competing for the resources needed by the venture); the venture’s prospective customers, distributors, and suppliers and their competitors; such groups as shareholders, employees, and unions (These groups should be retained only if they are relevant to the outcome.)

In the third step, we must figure out what point of view these various individuals and subunits have on issues of concern to us. As a starting point we should identify the venture’s opponents and allies. The opponents are those people that would be negatively affected, or we believe will be, if the venture succeeds. The analysis should turn up two or three key internal parties who are likely to obstruct the venture’s progress. It should also identify two or three key external parties that have a vested interest in the venture’s failure. We pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses.

The venture manager should also recognize main allies within the organization as well as outside. All parties that would benefit from the venture’s success should be identified. Even if they have not yet become allies, they are potential allies. The allies are the players whose support is most critically needed to promote the venture’s progress. Particular consideration should be provided to those who can help the company achieve its immediate goals. With limited resources, the manager of the venture must depend on the allies’ resources whenever possible.

In the fourth step we understand that intrapreneuring with power means that to get things done, we need power — more power than those have whose opposition we must overcome. Thus, it is imperative to understand where our power comes from and how our sources of power can be further developed. The previous section on the foundations of intrapreneurial politics provided a beginning, but only a beginning, to what is a very important and fascinating subject. To effectively intrapreneur with power, we need to go beyond this beginning.

We are sometimes reluctant to think very purposefully or strategically about acquiring and using power. We are prone to believe that if we do our best, work hard, are nice, and so forth, things will work out for the best. We don’t mean to imply that one should not, in general, work hard, try to make good decisions, and be nice, but these and similar platitudes are often not very useful in getting things done in our organizations. We need to understand power and try to get it. We must be willing to do things to build our sources of power, or else we will be less effective than we might wish to be. The building of reputational power is one of the more important and difficult tasks for an inexperienced venture manager.

The fifth and last step is to formulate a political strategy and courses of action for achieving the vision and the objectives of the venture. Since the goals of the venture manager and his or her allies may not be perfectly congruent, one of the first steps is to negotiate agreements with all allies that they will be enthusiastic about implementing. The manager should attempt to structure “win-win” agreements — agreements that will benefit all parties.

We must understand the strategy and tactics through which power is developed and used in organizations. This includes the importance of timing, framing the problem, controlling the agenda, the social psychology of commitment, and other forms of interpersonal influence. If nothing else, such an understanding will help us become astute observers of the behavior of others. The more power we grasp and its manifestations, the greater our clinical skills would be. More fundamentally, we need to understand the strategies and tactics of using power so that we can consider the range of approaches available to us and can use what is likely to be effective.

In order to succeed in these five-step program of intrapreneural skills acquisition one should learn the specific techniques that will help him or her to use the power. Such techniques may include (Pfeffer, 1992):

Creating First Impressions. Because reputational power is affected by first impressions, it is important to develop a good track record early. If you get off to a poor start, it may be necessary to switch to a different unit within the organization or even to a different organization in order to repair your reputation and get your career moving again. Those who maintain power and influence over a protracted period of time do so because they are conscious of how power, particularly reputational power, is developed and what its sources are. They work to acquire and maintain these sources through planned effort.

Avoiding Fights You Cannot Win. Because of the importance of reputation as a source of power, one should avoid at all costs those issues on which you would lose — even if you are absolutely certain that you are right. Being on the losing side of issues, particularly if it happens repeatedly, gives one the reputation of being a loser. Such a reputation is a serious drain on your power and influence. One should avoid an issue until you have enough time to marshall the allies and support needed to win the fight. Avoiding an issue is not a sign of weakness — it is a sign of smart politics.

Getting People Committed. If people are committed to a mission or project, they will follow that project without any external outside influence. People will become committed to a project if they willingly choose it with little to no external pressure and if their acts are clear and public in order to make them cannot deny being responsible for them. And if we can get a person to take some action that is relevant to a project, no matter how small, that person is likely to be dedicated to the whole project. For example, an automobile salesperson will try to get you to test-drive a car. When you’ve managed to get to the dealer and drive a car, you’re less likely to quit without buying it.

Techniques for Influencing the Issue

Using Outside Experts. The opinions of outside experts and consultants carry considerable weight in organizations, and many consultants can be swayed by political interests. Consultants know who is paying them, and even perfectly honest consultants are likely to give opinions consistent with those of their employer. Hiring an external contractor may be a good political step for the person doing the hiring. If you are captured, the internal manipulation of statistics and evidence to support one’s position can be very damnable. A safer approach would be to hire an external specialist to deliver the numbers and responses you need. Outside experts are less likely to be caught; and if they are, you can claim they did it on their own.

Framing the Problem. In much the same way that pictures are framed, questions and problems are framed. The context in which they are viewed and discussed often determines what gets done. Defining the context through which problems will be presented and resolved also amounts to deciding the outcome. Because the framing of an issue can decide its outcome, it is important to set the terms of the discussion early in the process. The ability to write intelligent memoranda that establish the framework for discussion will enable you to unobtrusively guide future discussions to a conclusion favorable to your viewpoint.

Controlling the Agenda. A person may not be able to persuade a group to reject a particular idea, but he or she may be able to keep the group from ever considering the idea. The person who controls a meeting’s agenda, for instance, may consistently put a particular idea last on the agenda and then take up time so that the meeting adjourns before ever considering the item. In Congress, the leaders who control procedural matters hold tremendous power because they can decide whether a bill goes before Congress or not.

Agendas represent a sequence of decisions. These decisions, once taken, may produce behavioral commitments that affect how subsequent decisions are made. Agendas can be used to build commitments to a course of action that might otherwise be impossible to obtain. Because of the committing effects of a sequence of choices, the order of presentation becomes an important tactical decision.

Controlling Decision Parameters. Someone who cannot control an actual decision can, with enough cleverness and forethought, control the criteria on which the decision is based. Suppose a manager wants to hire a friend’s son who has an excellent education but little experience. The manager participates in deciding which qualities the job candidate should have and subtly persuades the others that the job requires an intimate knowledge of the latest theories and research. The hiring committee then chooses the manager’s favorite on the basis of his education without the manager even being a member of the hiring committee.

Controlling Lines of Communication. Some people create or exploit situations to control lines of communication, particularly access to others in the organization. Secretaries frequently control access to their bosses. A secretary may put visitors in contact with the boss, send them away, delay the contact by delaying the return of phone calls, and so forth. They can use their position to achieve their own ends through political behavior.

Techniques of Timing

Moving First (Covin, Slevin, 1991). There are numerous advantages to acting first. By staking out a position, by taking some action that will be difficult to undo, we can compel those who come later to accommodate themselves to our position. Once a project is started, for instance, it is very difficult to stop it. When it is difficult to undo what you have accomplished, your actions serve as a base for further negotiations. You may set both the terms of the debate and the framework for subsequent action. Also, being first often provides the advantage of surprise and the possibility of finding your opponent unprepared.

Delaying. One of the best ways to stop something is to delay it, and a very successful way of delaying something is to call for further study. Delay works for several reasons. First, the proponents of an initiative may simply tire of the effort, particularly if they see it going nowhere. Second, it is possible that backers of a project may no longer be around, if the delay is sufficiently long. Third, delay is effective because decisions sometimes have deadlines associated with them, and a delay may result in rejection.

Using Deadlines. Deadlines are an excellent means of getting things accomplished. They convey a sense of urgency and importance and provide useful countermeasures to the strategy of interminable delay. Deadlines always favor the side that has the momentum or edge. If you are ahead, propose a deadline so that you can win before the tide changes. If a new plan is proposed near a deadline, it cannot receive as much scrutiny and attention as if it had been proposed earlier. Proposals made near the deadline are more likely to pass than if they had been proposed earlier.

Selecting Propitious Moment. Perhaps the scarcest resource in organizations is attention. Time spent coping with one problem is not time dedicated to other issues. Therefore, it is important to find the right moment to advance one’s idea. A good idea at the wrong time will be ignored and shunted aside (Block,. MacMillan, 1995).

On the other hand, an idea for a new product, which would otherwise have languished, may be received eagerly if the time is right, the competition keen, and attention focused on promising new products. This is one reason that persistence so often pays off.

In conclusion, I would like to say that in the case of building sources of power, we often try not to think about things like vision, goals, correct time use or others things that seem platitudes for the first sight but in fact are vital to intrapreneural qualities acquisition.

Intrapreneuring with power means more than just knowing the ideas discussed here. It means being willing to do something with that knowledge. It requires political savvy to get things done — and the willingness to force the issue.

  • Block Zenas and Ian C. MacMillan, Corporate Venturing ( Harvard Business School Press, 1995), pp. 274-277.
  • Brandt, S. C. (1988). Entrepreneuring in established companies. Homewood, IL: Dow Jones-Irwin.
  • Burgelman, R. A., & Sayles, L. (1987). Les intrapreneurs: Strategie, structure et gestion de l’innovation dans l’entreprise. Paris: MacGraw-Hill.
  • Covin, J. L., & Slevin, D. P. (1991). A conceptual model of entrepreneurship as firm behavior. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 16(1), 7-25.
  • Finch, P. (1985). Intrapreneurism: New hope for new business. Business Marketing, 70(7), 32-40.
  • Gifford Pinchot III, Intrapreneuring ( Harper and Row, 1985), p. 190.
  • Haskins G., & Williams, R. (1987). Intrapreneurship in action. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Special Report No. 1099. K.: The Economist Publications Limited, April.
  • John R. P. French and Bertram Raven, “The Bases of Social Power”, in Darwin Cartwright (ed.), Studies in Social Power ( University of Michigan Press, 1959), pp. 150167.
  • Pfeffer Jeffrey, Managing with Power ( Harvard Business School Press, 1992), to fit the special situation of intrapreneurs.
  • Zenas Block and Ian C. MacMillan, Corporate Venturing ( Harvard Business School Press, 1995), pp. 259-262.

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