Strategic Intrapreneurship for Machine Organizations?

Machine organizations are

structures fine-tuned to run as integrated, regulated, and highly

bureaucratic bodies. Machine organizations have the same basic

characteristics: (a) their operating work is routine, (b) the

greatest part of it is rather simple and repetitive, and (c) their

work processes are highly standardized. In a machine organization,

there is little room for intrapreneurship.

Max Weber (1864-

1920) elaborated the bureaucracy theory to establish a rational basis

for the organization and management of large-scale organizations. For

Weber, bureaucracy meant management by the office (German Büro) or

position rather than by a person or patrimonial. Weber analyzed

bureaucracy as the most logical and rational structure for large

organizations. Bureaucracy was not rule-encumbered inefficiency as

the term connote in modern parlance and characterized machine


Many international organizations are best

examples of machine organizations. Most of them were created after

the World War II. Their agendas and focuses expanded tremendously in

recent years. This vast expansion in mandates and responsibilities

necessitate a change in organizational and management practices.

These organizations can not afford to be a static one anymore and

they need to evolve into agile bodies with rapid deployment

capabilities and multidisciplinary experts capable of handling the

wide range of global issues.

Many scholars and practitioners

argued that strategic intrapreneurship is the best strategy to

rationalize a machine organization. Intrapreneurship can be defined

by its content, and this includes dimensions based on the

Schumpeterian innovation concept, a building block of

entrepreneurship. The pursuit of creative solutions to challenges

confronting the organization, including the development or

enhancement of old and new products and services, markets,

administrative techniques and technologies for performing

organizational functions, as well as changes in strategy, organizing,

and dealing with competitors, may be seen as innovations in the

broadest sense. The increase of intrapreneurship could be a key

component to the success of this form of organizations because they

operate in rapidly changing industries.

Intrapreneurs refer

to intra-organizational revolutionaries or entrepreneurs within

established organizations. Intrapreneurs try to challenge the status

quo and fight to change the system from within. They are generally

driven by their internal locus of control, reinventing companies,

transforming them, pushing them up to new heights, sometimes with and

most of the times without the top management support.


management of intrapreneurship within an organization is complex for

many reasons. The first reason is the nature of the organizations

(machine organizations, bureaucracy, large and small organizations,

etc.). Entrepreneurship is a context-dependent social process through

which individuals and teams create wealth by bringing together unique

packages of resources to exploit marketplace opportunities.

The second reason is the creation of a viable intrapreneurial

attitude. To create a viable intrapreneurial attitude, the firm must

be sensitive to the nature of its rewards system. While it is true

that many intrapreneurs are more challenge-oriented, that is, the

true intrapreneurs is inspired by success achieved in the face of

obstacles, there comes a time when even the most selfless

intrapreneurs begins to ask, “What is in this for me?”.

Entrepreneurship has been described at both the individual level

(Mintzberg’s standpoint) as well as the organizational level with

Miller and some other scholars. Mintzberg noted that a viable rewards

system is only possible if the concept of entrepreneurship is

associated to the individual level.

The third reason is the

paradox of corporations. Intrapreneurs set corporate innovative

business models and reinvent organizations. The paradox is that

intrapreneurs are not always welcomed in organizations.

Various scholars proposed 10 gateways to intrapreneurship that can

make a real difference in an organization’s ability to compete. These

are: (a) a culture of work force empowerment, risk-taking, and

action; (b) celebrating and rewarding ideas, progress, and results;

(c) free-flowing customer information and internal communication; (d)

management support and engagement at all levels; (e) ongoing

encouragement and promotion of risk taking and new ideas; (f)

developing processes for idea generation and advancement; (g) clearly

defined organizational needs, vision, and direction; (h) developing

better cooperation and teamwork; (i) providing resources to support

new ideas; and (j) cross training and special arrangements. These

gateways can be valuable to corporate executives who need to manage

entrepreneurial style in their organization.


application of these gateways requires innovative leadership

competencies. Organizations whose success depends on innovation

require a leadership style totally different from the one typically

used by most leaders. Whereas leaders of traditional organizations

succeed on their ability to artfully manipulate their environment,

innovation leadership emanates from manager’s creative initiatives,

intellectual preeminence, and technical or unique expertise that is

of value to each individual in the group and which translates to

direct benefits for all.

Your thoughts?