We’ve talked to roughly 800 companies about the Founder’s Mentality® and micro-battles. We’ve also been involved in hundreds of micro-battles ourselves. Patterns emerge. We’ve used these blogs to discuss those patterns in detail. Now we want to step back and give you our latest views on how the journey of micro-battles will transform your organization over time. As you embed micro-battles into your ways of working, you’ll begin to challenge your operating model. This will occur in a series of steps, based on four big themes. View this blog as a teaser—it’s going to be short, but we’ll delve more deeply into these themes in our next release.

The micro-battles journey consists of your point of departure, your point of arrival and the journey to get there. It’s simple, but let’s briefly reacquaint ourselves with each part.

  • Point of departure, or the urgent need to recover your Founder’s Mentality to compete against new insurgents. You’re reading this because you’re worried that you’ve lost your Founder’s Mentality. You’ve probably taken the Founder’s Mentality diagnostic, and you’ve identified which of the six building blocks matter to you most. You recognize that to transform, you’ll need to address fundamental behavioral issues and capability gaps. You see the deployment of micro-battles as a way to bring about this change.
  • Point of arrival, or the desire to become the scale insurgent in your industry. You understand the six design principles of the scale insurgent. This demands that you give customers the benefits of your growing scale and the benefits of a strong Founder’s Mentality. This will require you to resolve the three great conflicts as close to the customer as possible (read, close to the front line). These three conflicts are:
    • Scale vs. intimacy
    • Routine vs. disruption
    • Short term vs. long term

You’ll resolve these conflicts by creating fully dedicated micro-battle teams that include both sides of each conflict. They’ll resolve them within the team or quickly escalate to the Leadership team if issues arise. You’ll manage all this through the Win-ScaleAmplify framework, or the Bain Micro-battles SystemSM. You’ll use the system to get results from individual micro-battles. You’ll also use the system to drive learning and behavior change across the entire portfolio.

A new lens: The four steps toward “transformation through technology”

But let’s apply a new lens—how will the journey change the way you fundamentally think about your operating model? In particular, how will it begin to challenge the way you organize and build capabilities? In Figure 1, we set out the major steps of this journey. Each step builds on a theme we’ve already raised, but now we can put them together as a whole. Let’s briefly review the steps.

  1. Design and launch micro-battles in three levels, introducing a common taxonomy for each level. As you get better at running micro-battles and begin to embed the approach into your daily ways of working, you’ll start to think of a micro-battle on three levels—customer experience, business process and technology. Your first goal is to fundamentally improve the customer experience. So you begin prototyping those changes and understanding how to scale them (Win-Scale). As you amplify the impact of individual micro-battles, you’ll see patterns. To improve an element of the customer experience, you’ll need to improve a few key business processes. To change these business processes at scale, you’ll need a technology fix. All roads lead to technology, but the journey starts with the customer.
  2. Build the scaling community and address common scaling issues from Day 1. One of our fundamental insights in developing micro-battles is that companies need to build scaling communities. Yet no one is talking about how to identify and nurture their members. We emphasized that 85% or more of the firm’s activities are built around flawless execution. You assemble great experts who execute a playbook, and your customers benefit from your routines. The executors are the heroes of the company. But, of course you must innovate and disrupt, so you create Agile communities to prototype new innovations. But who takes innovation and translates it into routine? This is the role of the scaling community. Give this community a focused agenda to manage the three levels of micro-battles. The members of this community will make sure that you’re thinking about each level. They’ll begin to scale a winning prototype by understanding the business process changes needed. They’ll also consider the technology fixes that will make those process changes happen.
  3. Address capability bottlenecks. The scaling community will sort through the business process and technology changes required to scale. But companies that are embedding micro-battles see a set of common bottlenecks start to emerge in this step. Elsewhere, we talk about six common capability gaps. Here are two examples. You’ll discover that you don’t have enough world-class talent in house to design great customer experiences. It stands to reason that this new focus on transforming customer experiences will overload your current resources, from both a quantity and quality standpoint. The same goes for coding. You’ll need world-class coders—folks who can make fast changes to your tech platforms, but also create ongoing plug-and-play add-ons. This isn’t easy. Scale insurgents put elegant IT architecture at the heart of their scaling model. Incumbents don’t. Technology expertise often means managing large outsourced technology contracts.
  4. Make fundamental changes to your operating model. Put the customer, and the franchise players who deliver outstanding customer experiences, at its center. If all micro-battles start with the customer experience, the customer should be at the heart of everything you do. If micro-battle teams are led by franchise players, then you must focus your operating model on empowering and supporting them. If scaling a micro-battle demands fast solutions to business process and technology bottlenecks, then the scaling community must provide these solutions. If this work uncovers six major capability gaps, then you must reorient your operating model. Focus on the people and skills you’ll need in the future, pulling resources from the traditional model. The act of embedding micro-battles into daily ways of working will fundamentally challenge your current operating model. And that’s a great thing.

So, that’s a taste of our next round of innovation. When we return to these themes in the next release of micro-battles, we’ll be sharing more company experiences on these four steps. We look forward to the lessons ahead.

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