Institutional Change

Harness Your Inner Changemaker

Intrapreneurs are leaders who know how to lead organizational change from the inside out.  They are able to transform an organization more quickly and effectively because they are self‐motivated and comfortable navigating the dynamics of an organization’s inner workings. Individuals with intrapreneurial qualities take initiative and create or improve programs, processes, policies, and services for their organization. One of the best techniques for coming up with new ideas is to identify issues and bottlenecks that impact your team’s productivity or ability to deliver high quality work.

For more information about Harnessing Your Inner Changemaker, click here to read the corresponding section in the Playbook.


30-60 mins

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Flip Chart Markers

Step 1

Before the meeting, interview team members and co-workers to identify a bottleneck or recurring problem that impacts your team’s ability to perform at a high level. Consider anything your organization does, from producing a report to hosting an event to submitting expenses, that requires internal collaboration and can be frustrating or stressful.  Note: this activity is best suited for simple or moderately difficult recurring problems.

Then, invite your team to a problem-solving session, led by you, to help improve the workflow or process you’ve identified. The activity is known as the Five Whys, and is an easy to use, effective technique for uncovering the root cause of a problem. Introduce the concept of the Five Whys briefly, using this article and video as a guide.

Step 2

Based on your interviews, provide a brief verbal summary of the problem or bottleneck, without proposing a solution. On a flip chart paper, write the problem or bottleneck down in one or two sentences. Remember the problem has to be simple, so if you can’t explain in a sentence or two, it might not be the right problem for this exercise.

Step 3

With the problem written clearly and concisely for the group, guide your team through the Five Why’s activity, where you start with the problem and keep asking “why” until you have uncovered the root cause. Record the root cause on a new flip chart paper.

Step 4

Collectively brainstorm strategies to address the root cause of the problem.

Here’s an example of how this activity might play out:

Problem:   A funder won’t let our organization submit a follow up proposal and it is threatening the continuation of one of our team’s programs

  1. Why? We were late submitting our final report to the fundraising team.
  2. Why? The report writing took longer than we anticipated
  3. Why? We did not know what information was needed in the final report when the grant was awarded
  4. Why? We did not have a tracking system to capture the right information from the beginning of the project
  5. Why?  We did not communicate far enough in advance with the fundraising about the grant reporting requirements

Counter Measure:  We need set it up a regular staff meeting and work flow when our program receives a grant so we can better plan the final reporting process, including setting up dashboards, report writing, and knowing the deadlines.

Step 5

Guide your team through a reflection using these guiding questions:

  • Was this exercise useful?
  • How might we incorporate this problem-solving process regularly into our work?
  • What are some other bottlenecks or issues we should tackle in the next few months?