Skip to main content

Calling all Fedpreneurs!

Posted Aug 09, 2016

Posted Aug 09. 2016

By La Vida Cooper, former President's Management Council (PMC) Fellow

What does it mean to be entrepreneurial in the Federal Government?  This was the question I grappled with over the course of a 6-month rotation with the Performance Improvement Council (PIC) as part of the President’s Management Council (PMC) Interagency Rotation Program.  The rotation gave me an opportunity to step back from my ‘day job’ as  a Branch Head at NASA Goddard Space Center and into something completely different.  I wanted to explore the concept of entrepreneurship and its application within the Federal Government; what would be needed to build this capability within the Federal workforce and change the way we approach mission delivery?  

My time at the PIC culminated in a cross-government Summit attended by over a hundred onsite and remote participants representing 18 Federal Departments and Agencies across the country. With the support of the PIC I now hope to build on the interest shown at that event and establish a community of “Fedpreneur” enthusiasts across Government – interested? Read on for more...


Fedpreneur Definition developed by La Vida Cooper

Why the PIC?

The mission of the PIC is to advance and expand the practice of performance management and improvement by creating opportunities where government employees working to achieve progress learn from breakthroughs achieved elsewhere and collaborate to solve complex challenges.

It is possible to define Performance through a narrow lens, but the PIC team recognizes that to truly improve performance in the Federal Government we may need something just a little more creative than traditional approaches.   Working with colleagues on the PIC team,  we  hypothesized that many of the key concepts which seem inherently entrepreneurial could just as easily be applied in the Federal context… we just needed to make an intentional shift from ‘entrepreneur’ to #Fedpreneur!

Preneuer Table

I know from my own experience that many program teams find themselves working to build and rebuild programs in order to expand their reach (market capture) or take advantage of emerging opportunities (product design) and might just benefit from a more entrepreneurial approach. But how do you go about being an ‘entrepreneur’ when you are in Government?

Early in my research I came across the term “intrapreneur”, which was first coined by the author and entrepreneur  Gifford Pinchot III way back in 1978!  He describes an intrapreneur as a person within an organization who uses entrepreneurial skills/approaches to develop new products and services. Most recently, Gifford  himself told participants at the PIC summit, an intrapreneur is “an employee who takes on a role like that of an entrepreneur”;  “ the self- appointed general manager of a new idea”.  

Intrapreneurs are motivated by passion and a need to “implement”, be it their own ideas or a great idea originating from another person. 

Intrapreneurship is not a “new concept”, it has been in existence and practice for decades.  Private industry examples of companies who use intrapreneurial models include but are not limited to Sun Microsystems (Java Programming language), Google (Gmail, Google News, AdSense, driverless cars, Google Glass) and Sony (Play Station) to name a few [1].

Increasingly, there are also great examples of pockets within the Federal Government where Intrapreneurship has thrived and ‘Fedpreneurs’ are a core part of the Federal workforce.  At the PIC Summit, Gifford presented a case study highlighting the   USDA Enterprise Team  Program. He  described how the use of intrapreneurial approaches for almost two decades has achieved solid increases in key performance metrics, meeting customer need and fulfilling their mission  In fact, a 2005 report indicated that “employees in Forest Service  Enterprise Team Program were 1.8 times as productive as the average agency employee”[2]

Other Summit speakers, such as Jenn Gustetic from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Sherri Bourneuf from Sanofi, Peter Hughes from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and Adrian Gardner from Federal Emergency Management Agency shared the challenges and successes they have had using intrapreneurial approaches in Government. The PIC itself uses intrapreneurial approaches such as championing the practice of Graphic Recording and facilitation through its growing Collaboration Studio team.  

Speaker stories and working sessions throughout the Summit helped Federal participants to recognize their intrapreneurial strengths and identify as ‘Fedpreneurs’ in the making.

Where now?

It’s now been a few months since the Summit took place and I am back in the ‘day job’, I notice opportunities to bring a ‘fedpreneurial’ approach to my work almost every day, but it’s not easy.  Working with the PIC I want to foster a cross-Government community of practice for others who want to learn more about the concepts we introduced at the Summit and share as we learn.  Our first hangout is baselined for October, if you would like to join e-mail


   Graphic Recording

"Intrapreneurial Federal Government Summit" Graphic Recording by Stephanie Brown