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Evolving from Product Owner to Intrapreneur Amongst Red Tape - Part II

In part I of this series we discussed how embodying the Intrapreneur attitude can only be achieved if you focus on the different layers of your work ecosystem. The base starts within yourself, and then with experience you learn how to improve and take ownership in the other layers of your work ecosystem. We already tackled Yourself and Team, so now let’s dive into Surroundings, Product, and Vision.

Layer Three - Surroundings

Prior to being hired, there is only so much you can uncover about a company and its surroundings. You’ve been hired as a product owner, so how do you level up to an Intrapreneur? Remember, Intrapreneurs are often given permission to innovate, fail and try new things in order to move the business forward. So, how can you do that effectively within your surroundings?

What is ownership?

First, try to uncover what intrapreneurship, or empowerment, means at your company. How much decision-making ability do you have? What are you actually responsible for? This allows you to work within the social norms, but also identify a new course of direction that has not been explored.

Keeping up with company happenings

From there, do more. Break out of your department and find out what else is going on in the enterprise. Sit down and meet with folks that you may not cross paths with today, but could tomorrow. Intrapreneurs are trying to achieve maximum value and connect the dots to new opportunities and efficiencies. For example, I have seen multiple teams using different sets of tools. If they were aware that the large enterprise already had a license for X, they could have utilized it for more efficiency.

Know the structure

Finally, navigating the hierarchy with stakeholders and leadership is important. Identify your stakeholders early. Don’t be scared to sit down with each of them and understand their expectations, how they perceive “failures”, and bounce ideas off of them. It’s important to hear from the source, keep stakeholders informed appropriately, raise concerns early and loudly, and take ownership by reporting out on the good, bad, and ugly.

Layer Four - Product

A part of championing the product is spreading the gospel. Be proud of what you are working on, share your product’s story far and near, and fall on the sword – it’s your baby. In order to be the best storyteller for your product, there are a couple things you should do to improve your storytelling skills and champion your product around town.

This might sound obvious, but know your product. If it’s existing, dive into its origin story, what are its current metrics, and most importantly its short comings. Do more than just understand how your product works. If you understand its backstory, ideas that were put on the backburner, and past decisions, you will be better informed to cultivate a product roadmap that maximizes the most value for the product.

As you are proactively growing your product knowledge, think of tangible things that can help you tell that story. This can take form in many different artifacts – lean canvas, walk-around-decks, business cases, product roadmaps, and other organizational change management documents. Whatever medium you decide, remember to be concise and precise. The idea is that you can leave this artifact behind and the person reviewing it will get a great overview on what you are working on. If things have changed, help communicate that change across the board.

Whatever form you decide to take, make sure that you are telling the whole story. We often focus on just the timeline – when will this go to production? – and the deliverable – what is scope for this release? In order to tell the full story, we must champion the full story of our product. Remember to bring everyone back to the “why” or strategy. This allows the team to align with the vision to feel as though they are contributing to something meaningful and for stakeholders to remember the product vision you all set out to achieve.

Layer Five - Vision

The final piece to your working ecosystem is the vision. This vision goes beyond your product’s vision and into your role as an Intrapreneur. How can you optimize both and do more? In my opinion, I think you need to define a mantra, or True North that will always guide you.

For my, my vision or True North contains the following:

  • Remember the why – constantly remember what the value is that you are trying to deliver and continuously try to evolve that “why”. The “why” behind your product today may not be the same “why” tomorrow. As a product owner, I constantly remember to validate my why through user research, stakeholder feedback, competitive analysis , and reviewing current states data. Be hungry to find the “why” always , or else you are not delivering value.
  • Remember empathy – being empathetic to your users is one thing, but you need to also remember to be empathetic toward your team, surroundings, and the products you are delivering. Empathy is the core of mantra, and without it I don’t think you can be successful.
  • Remember the past and the future – it’s important to understand where you came from. Learn from the lessons, successes, and failures, but also be hungry to grow in the future. This guiding light is part of mantra to remind me to not solely focus on the present.

So, there it is. Five areas that you can hyper focus on in your working environment so that you can do more and work better. Doing more and working better allows you to naturally take on an Intrapreneur attitude.

Best of luck, and remember – don’t get pinned down to just your role and responsibilities. You can offer much more than that, and the red tape and process in your work environment are always things you can learn to navigate around by elevating in each layer of your work ecosystem.


About The Author

Product Owner

Laura is a product owner consultant at Cardinal Solutions' Columbus office. With her diverse background in project management and content marketing, she has found her passion in delivering valuable products users crave. Laura also is a Co-Organizer for Columbus Web Group and serves as a professional advisor for The Ohio State University's PRSSA Chapter and Student-Run PR Firm.