Project Intrapreneurship-Seeings Risks in a Positive Light

Project Intrapreneurship-Seeings Risks in a Positive Light

Project Intrapreneurship-Seeings Risks in a Positive Light
Project Intrapreneurship-Seeings Risks in a Positive Light

The Project Intrapreneur

Entrepreneurship has gained a lot of hype lately via initiatives like the Start-up Movement, Fab Labs, The Maker’s Movement – and thus becoming more main stream than ever before, while even being fashionably overused. On the other hand, intrapreneurship is just starting to become known as a business concept. It is a by-product of entrepreneurship emphasizing a move towards fostering and cultivating innovation within the existing infrastructure of a business, rather than starting-up a new one.

Entrepreneurship is a fundamentally high risk activity, involving committing resources on the basis of uncertain outcomes – and so is Project Management! In my opinion, project managers can be seen as natural organizational entrepreneurs or better yet as intrapreneurs. Think about it - even before the term was coined, project managers, by definition have always been responsible for bringing to life a “new product, service or result”, especially under tight deadlines, with multiple priorities, while leading each phase of a project from initiation to closure.

Project Management (PM) Intrapreneurship

PM intrapreneurs are effective at identifying opportunities that others do not see within a project. This ability enables them to maximize planned and unexpected benefits. Risk is usually seen through a negative perspective however in PRINCE2 a risk is also seen in a positive light. The PRINCE2 definition of risk is “an uncertain event that, if it occurs, will have a positive or negative effect on a project objective”. 

To transition into a PM intrapraneur we need to make the leap to focusing on the positive side of risk management and exploiting opportunities rather than only seeing risks as threats to control.  A PM intrapreneur identifies, monitors and controls the necessary negative risks, but also knows how to proactively identify opportunities and integrate them in the plan to maximize business benefits, even if it is counter intuitive to the project roadmap. This is not easy, but this is the spirit of the PM intrapreneur.

Risks are uncertain events that could have a positive or negative effect on your projects. Taking a calculated risk means weighing the costs of failure against the benefits of success and being bold enough to move forward beyond your comfort zone. Sure, this is not easy, as you may have to overcome many skeptical opinions, but the reward of achieving success is greatly satisfying and demonstrates your added-value to the organization.

Risk Can be negative or positive

Positive risks are risks that result in good things happening. The goal of a PM intrapreneur is to minimize potential negative risks while maximizing potential positive risks. A calculated positive risk in a project context may be to try a new technology or to mentor a less talented team member. The assumption is that that it could slow things down or require additional costs, but the end result, if successful, will benefit both the current project and future projects - thus creating more value for the business. Here are a few other examples of positive risks:

The bottom line is that a PM intrapreneur is willing to go outside of their comfort zone for an opportunity within the project to get a better result. This may not be the conventional risk-management approach, but this approach is sure to deliver added-value and foster a culture of positive risk taking. Here are some strategies that you can take when confronted with potential positive risks:

Doing the Unconventional: Response Strategies to Positive Risks

To be a PM intrapreneur requires being unconventional and taking calculated positive risks. This is usually limited to the risk appetite of the company. Risk appetite can be defined as "the amount and type of risk that an organisation is willing to take in order to meet their strategic objectives". The appropriate level will depend on the type of work being undertaken. 

For example, where public safety is key (e.g. operating a nuclear power station) appetite will tend to be low, while for an innovative project (e.g. early development of an innovative program) it may be very high, with the acceptance of short term failure that could pave the way to longer term success. PM intrapreneurs must have a clear understanding of the risk appetite at an operational and strategic level. Here are the different categories of risk appetites that organizations fall under:

PM intrapreneurs’ role is to deliver projects within an organisational risk appetite, while maximizing positive risks. PMs would be out of line to expose their organisation to greater risk than it was willing to bear - and they'd also be wrong to be overly cautious in their approach if the organisation is willing to take a substantial level of risk. It is the organisation that sets the tolerable risk, not the PM.

To be able to make the leap to PM intrapreneurship there is also a mindset shift that we must embark on. That is, changing our thinking from “What will happen if this goes wrong” to “What is preventing me from adding new value to the project” or better yet transitioning in the following way 

Moreover, having a solid PM entrepreneurship strategy within your organization is a great way to keep employees motivated, especially millennial!

Talent Retention of Millennials

Ninety-one percent of Millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years, according to the Future Workplace “Multiple Generations @ Work” survey of 1,189 employees and 150 managers. That means they would have 15 – 20 jobs over the course of their working lives! Identifying project management entrepreneurship opportunities in your organization is a great strategy to keep those millennial engaged. Next time that the twenty-something millennial comes around your office looking for that next challenge after only a year of working for you, think of hammering out a development plan around PM entrepreneurship. 

This is one way for talent retention, which satisfy the “ants in the pants” millennial’s craving for change, while giving them a sense of ownership and challenge. Think about PM entrepreneurship to support this strategy with a PMO that has the appropriate tools and resources to drive this strategy forward – then your organization will have the capacity to be more agile, competitive and proactive in their talent retention!


The world needs risk takers: entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, heroes and those who challenge the status quo. PM intrapreneurs spark creative outcomes, bring to life new opportunities and promote fresh ideas, while enhancing the positive risk culture within an organization.

The Author : Kamil Mroz

About : 
I am an award-winning project leader with director-level & site-leadership experience, strong communication skills and a strategic long-term view enabling the connection between strategy and operational execution.

I am driven and energized by coaching, mentoring and developing talents, while overcoming transversal organizational challenges. My experience in people management has enabled me to discover my passion for the leadership of intercultural, diverse and technical teams composed of both direct reports and cross-functional matrix project teams. 

I have been awarded global distinctions from both the largest PM organizations, IPMA and PMI for advanced project management expertise, strong team work, communication & leadership.

I owe my servant leadership approach to the time I have dedicated to social and volunteer-causes where I focused on several high-impact philanthropic projects in Europe. I am also proud to have also been the first ever student to be awarded the Young Alumni of the Year by the Faculty of Engineering from the University of Ottawa and I also Chair of the ISPE BeNeLux Steerco on Project Management.

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