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Excerpt from WWW.NDMA.COM, © 2019 N. Dean Meyer and Associates Inc.

a compelling vision that guides every aspect of organizational design

Jobs as internal lines of business.

The business-within-a-business (BWB) paradigm is a vision of how great organizations work. It provides a definition of the end-state for transformations -- one which guides decisions at each step along the journey.

More on developing a leadership vision....

In the BWB paradigm, every manager thinks and acts like an entrepreneur running a small business. Everbody understands that they exist to deliver products and services to customers inside and outside their organization.

"Dean is truly an original thinker, and his insights have strongly influenced my philosophy and business outlook over the last 25 years."
Sandy Kyrish, Ph.D.
Assistant Dean for Finance and Administration
School of Communications and Theater, Temple University

Dean Meyer is one of the earliest proponents of the BWB paradigm....

Before defining the power of the business-within-a-business paradigm, let's set aside some common misconceptions:

  • The BWB paradigm is not outsourcing or spinning off an independent service company.

  • It doesn't necessarily mean chargebacks, nor operating internal service functions as profit centers.

  • It doesn't make you a passive order-taker. There are many things internal entrepreneurs can do proactively.

    Internal entrepreneurs can be proactive.

  • It doesn't mean managers have a free reign, with no oversight.

  • And it certainly doesn't imply an arm's-length relationship where support staff don't care about the well-being of the enterprise.

Book: Business-Within-a-Business Paradigm

What, then, is it?

The business-within-a-business paradigm goes beyond viewing shared-services departments as internal businesses.

More on shared services....

In a business-within-a-business organization, every group is treated as a business whose job is to produce products and services for customers. Customers may be peers within the organization, clients throughout the enterprise, or external customers.

And every manager thinks and acts like an entrepreneur running his/her own little business. Internal entrepreneurs strive to earn customers' business through relationships and performance, as the supplier of choice in a market that has a right to go elsewhere (even if internal customers have no choice but to work with them).

The business-within-a-business paradigm brings out the best in people -- all traits of successful entrepreneurs:

  • Customer focus: People treat peers within the organization as customers, and strive to please them.

    Note: This does not mean that staff are passive order-takers. They're proactive in many ways, improving their businesses, working with customers to discover opportunities, suggesting alternative solutions, and planning for their futures.

  • Results orientation: People accept accountability for delivering products and services (not just managing resources and processes).

  • Quality: People are accountable for, and gain a sense of pride in, the quality of their products and services.

  • Efficiency and cost control: Entrepreneurs know they have to be the best deal in town. Thus, everybody is accountable for cost control to offer their products and services at competitive rates.

  • Teamwork: Cross-boundary teams form dynamically as people "buy" help from internal suppliers. And since they buy others' products and services (not just staff's time), individual accountabilities within teams are clear.

    More on cross-boundary teamwork....

  • Use of vendors: Entrepreneurs are responsible for results, not just managing the resources they've been given. So managers propose "buy" over "make" whenever vendors can help them offer a better deal. And they remain accountable for results, even if they use vendors as part of their delivery capabilities.

  • Innovation: Entrepreneurs know they have to keep their products and services up-to-date.

    More on innovation....

  • Judicious risk: Managers take the right risks to keep their businesses successful.

  • Alignment: People "buy" just what they most need from peers, and success means pleasing one's customers. Thus, customers' priorities ripple through the entire organization.

  • Empowerment: Governance occurs through market-based processes, not bureaucratic rules, disempowering oversight, or groups whose mission is to control their peers.

    More on empowerment....

Quick list of things internal entrepreneurs must do to earn customers' business....

Internal entrepreneurs earn the business

Contrary to critics' accusations, the business-within-a-business paradigm does not distance an organization from its internal customers. Respectful customer-supplier relationships, with distinct and synergistic accountabilities, lead to far better partnerships. Furthermore, a business-within-a-business organization continually strives to be the "supplier of choice" to its external customers.

Provocative article: Partnership through internal customer-supplier relations....

"In the past, I worked at a large company that had engaged Dean to implement the business-within-a-business paradigm, and it was the healthiest organization I've ever been in."
Mark R. Schultze, COO, PerformanceG2, Inc.

And the empowerment, sense of value, and creative opportunities are good for staff. It's a great place to work -- an "employer of choice" in its labor markets.

It takes more than talk to implement this vision. Organizational structure, culture, and resource-governance processes all must be designed to induce and support internal entrepreneurship.

How to implement the business-within-a-business paradigm in your organization....

Up to site home.... Additional resources on the BWB paradigm.... Contact us....