James Allen

About James Allen

James Allen is a senior partner in Bain & Company's London office. He is the co-leader of Bain's Global Strategy practice, the founder of the firm's Customer Strategy & Marketing practice and a member of Bain's European Consumer Products and Technology practices. In addition, he leads Bain's Developing Market 100 initiative. He is coauthor of "The Founder's Mentality: How to Overcome the Predictable Crises of Growth" (Harvard Business Review Press; June 7, 2016). James is a recognized leading expert in developing global corporate and business unit strategy. With more than 25 years of consulting experience, he has worked extensively for multi-national companies in consumer products, oil and gas, technology and telecommunications, healthcare and other industries. He advises clients on the development of global growth strategies, emerging market entry strategies and turnaround strategies. James earned an MBA from the Harvard Business School.
Jul 26

A Profile of the Scaling Community: Phase One

By | July 26th, 2018|Micro-battles|0 Comments

By James Allen and Roger Philby

Lately, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the issues of scaling. In particular, we’ve been focusing on the people who help organizations scale big ideas—or the scaling community. But how did we move from Founder’s Mentality to the scaling community? Well, it took a few steps.


Jun 29

The Changing Question of China

By | June 29th, 2018|Insurgency|0 Comments

I’ve been visiting China for many years, and it’s amazing to watch how the “China question” keeps changing for Western multinational companies (MNCs). Here’s a 20-year perspective:

  • Twenty years ago, the question was “Is China important?” I would argue that most MNCs took about 10 years to answer “yes.” By 2008 or so, everyone realized that winning in China was critical.
  • Ten years ago, the question shifted to “Is China different?” It took another decade, but eventually most MNCs answered “yes.” Rather than treating China as any other market, companies began to shift strategies and allow their Chinese operations to do whatever it took to win. While I still don’t believe most MNCs have created real tailwinds to help their business, I’ve seen tremendous efforts to at least reduce the headwinds of “corporate support”!
  • Today, the question has shifted to […]
Jun 21

Chinese Founders and the Scaling Community

By | June 21st, 2018|Consumer Products, Micro-battles|0 Comments

I was recently in Shanghai, meeting with both founder-led domestic companies and global multinational companies (MNCs). During this trip, I had the opportunity to talk with the senior management team of M&G Stationery, a market leader in stationery in China. M&G was established in 1996 by cofounder and CEO Huxiong Chen. He started working in stationery at the age of 17, as a salesman. After a decade in sales, he founded the company with his brother, Huwen Chen, and sister, Xueling Chen.

During the management meeting, we got on the topic of innovation and the issues companies often encounter. Huxiong Chen noted, “Currently, M&G has a couple of small-scale innovations (less than 50 million RMB). As I consider these innovations, I realize they are really just expenses to M&G rather than real business. We are treating these innovations as a hobby, because we are not investing time to ensure that these innovations can scale.”


Apr 23

Transformation Through Technology: A Vision for Embedding Micro-battles

By | April 23rd, 2018|Micro-battles|0 Comments

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.


Apr 19

The Embedding Challenge

By | April 19th, 2018|Micro-battles|0 Comments

Congratulations. You’re running a number of micro-battles and beginning to address some tough scaling issues, where you’ve had to:

1. Convert individual prototypes into Repeatable Models® that can be rolled out across the company.
2. Amplify the impact of the portfolio of micro-battles to help you achieve full potential for the business as a whole.


Apr 18

Communicating the Micro-battles Journey: Six Lessons from the Masters

By | April 18th, 2018|Micro-battles|0 Comments

In our blog on the micro-battles training agenda, we refer to our Leadership training workshop, where we help leaders better understand how to manage the portfolio of micro-battles. A key issue that comes up repeatedly is “communication”: How should we talk about our journey to embed micro-battles in our ways of working? To gather some best practices, we interviewed management teams that we consider to be the most proficient at this. Here are six lessons that we hope you’ll find useful.


Apr 17

Interventions: The 10 Most Common

By | April 17th, 2018|Micro-battles|0 Comments

You’re frustrated. Your company is surrounded by insurgents, who are constantly innovating, disrupting and occasionally picking off some of your most important customers. Yet, internally, there’s no sense of urgency. Meetings come and go. Initiatives are launched with great fanfare, only to repeatedly underperform, yet never quite die. You lose top recruits that hint you’re yesterday’s company, but these losses are explained away. Some longstanding customers drift away, but again, the organization produces perfectly satisfactory explanations.

You decide to shake things up. You like this Founder’s Mentality® thing, and you like the idea of becoming a scale insurgent. You recognize this demands you rediscover your original insurgency, your frontline obsession and your owner mindset. And you’re compelled to launch micro-battles, to rediscover the art of getting things done. You’re tired of the complacency that surrounds you and love the idea of a minirevolution to wake everyone up. So you launch micro-battles and “trust the system”—your micro-battle teams will work according to the Win-Scale cycle and your leadership team will manage the portfolio of micro-battles through the Amplify cycle.


Apr 12

Broadening the Micro-battles Portfolio

By | April 12th, 2018|Micro-battles|0 Comments

We’ve written previously on how to select your first set of micro-battles. In the first wave of micro-battles, we emphasized that you should select battles that are material, winnable, address big sources of organizational dysfunction, and involve the stars of your business. But, of course, you want to launch more than one wave of micro-battles. So that raises the question: After the first wave of micro-battles, how should you begin choosing the full portfolio of micro-battles? This blog focuses on that issue. We’ll review three topics.


Apr 11

Building the Scaling Community: Five Questions

By | April 11th, 2018|Micro-battles|0 Comments

We are obsessed with the notion of scaling. More specifically, “How do great companies scale great ideas across the enterprise?” One CEO calls it industrializing, meaning, “How do I move from ideas to pilots to industrialization, i.e., convert an idea into our ways of working, so the full enterprise is bringing innovative ideas to our customers at industrial scale?” The entire Bain Micro-battles System℠ is set up to scale—individual teams worry about moving from prototype to repeatable model, and the executive team is constantly asking, “How do we scale insights from individual micro-battles across the company?” We’ve set up a process to consider scaling at every point.


Apr 10

Scaling as a Capability: 10 Lessons from the Masters

By | April 10th, 2018|Micro-battles|0 Comments

In our blog on the micro-battles training agenda, we referred to our Leadership training workshop, where we work with leaders to better understand how to manage the portfolio of micro-battles. A good deal of this training is about behavioral change, but we also train on skills. One skill that’s common to most companies working on micro-battles is scaling. But to put it bluntly, most companies realize they’re not very good at it. This is our collection of best practices for scaling issues.


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