“When someone tries to innovate within a traditional organization,
few will understand what he/she is doing,
but everybody will understand who is a trouble-maker.
After the innovation has been embraced by the organization,
few will remember who started it,
but everybody will remember who was a trouble-maker.
This is the dilemma encountered by many intrapreneurs -
they risk punishment for success.”
If you accept the above - and it's really hard not to if you've ever tried to drive innovation in a large organisation - it is possible to conclude that if noone remembers you as a troublemaker, then you haven't been innovating.
And what follows is innovators will rarely, if ever, fit well with a traditional performance management system.
I have to be honest with you and admit I've sat in performance review meetings and lowballed troublemakers. The reason? The trouble they caused wasn't actually helping me, regardless of whether it was helping someone else. The problem perhaps, is that the benefit coming from the trouble-maker isn't often visible. There is such a thing, after all, as a troublemaker who is just a troublemaker.
Anyway, as a result, the innovator-troublemaker is pretty likely to miss out on promotions, financial rewards, and other forms of internal recognition. I have, often. My own experience tells me its nothing unusual for innovators, in fact, to be more recognised outside their organisations than inside for the work they do.
This seems to be true regardless of how much support the innovator has from executive management. It is a direct result of the skew performance management systems have to rewarding those behaviours that keep a business running today.
If there is an answer, I think it must be that performance management systems need to be realigned to reinforce behaviours that keep the business runnning tomorrow. Not today. Today can take care of itself.
That's a leap of faith, of course, and one I think few managers, especially in command-and-control organisations will be comfortable with. Experience - probably an oxymoron with the rate of change in workplaces today - tells them they need to metricate and manage everything, and tomorrow is far, far too far away.