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.
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.


Apr 9

Micro-battles and the Learning Center

By | April 9th, 2018|Micro-battles|0 Comments

Besides the obvious fact that they’re all music acts, what do the Beatles, Green Day, the Four Tops and Jimi Hendrix have in common? Sometimes, they just couldn’t settle on a song title and played the parentheses game.

• The Beatles: “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”
• Green Day: “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”
• The Four Tops: “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)”
• Jimi Hendrix: “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”*

Well, at least we’re in good company—we can’t figure out what to call the war room (aka the learning center). We love the war room’s action orientation, and we love the learning center’s emphasis on continuous learning. So, we ultimately decided that the war room would be for the Win-Scale team and the learning center would be for the Leadership team. Let’s take a look at the learning center.


Apr 6

The Amplify Team: Key Skills

By | April 6th, 2018|Micro-battles|0 Comments

When we introduced the notion of micro-battles, we identified two teams. The first is the Win-Scale team. It’s in charge of running micro-battles on a daily basis. The second is the Leadership (Amplify) team. This is the senior leadership team. It’s charged with reviewing the progress of micro-battle teams regularly (every three to four weeks) and managing the portfolio of micro-battles. We also introduced five specific roles of the Amplify team (see Figure 1). We noted that across these five roles, the Amplify team should act as the role model for what it means to be a scale insurgent. The purpose of this blog is to go into more detail on what skills are required to play these roles.


Apr 5

The Three Levels of Micro-battles

By | April 5th, 2018|Micro-battles|0 Comments

By James Allen and Andrew Noble

All micro-battles lead to technology. But micro-battles journeys don’t start with technology. Let’s discuss.

As we work with companies on micro-battles, we’re learning that taxonomy matters. Derived from the Greek words taxis (arrangement) and nomia (method), the term taxonomy was originally used in biology to classify organisms. But taxonomy is now applied widely. We’ve found huge value in identifying and naming patterns of behaviors, routines and lessons as companies work on micro-battles.

Working closely with Bain’s Innovation practice, we’ve been identifying the common patterns that Agile teams and micro-battle teams encounter as they prototype and scale winning solutions. And we’re seeing common patterns in the most successful innovations and micro-battles themselves. Inevitably, the teams work on three levels: customer experience, business processes and technology. That order matters.


Apr 2

The Amplify Model: Behavior Change at the Top

By | April 2nd, 2018|Micro-battles|0 Comments

Meet Freddie (not his real name, but his tale is based on a true story). The leaders of his company, Property Casualty Inc., read our book The Founder’s Mentality® and wanted to transform the company from a struggling incumbent into a scale insurgent. They latched onto the idea of micro-battles and loved the notion of putting their top 20 leaders in charge of these focused initiatives.

One of them was Freddie, a 28-year-old star whom they promoted into the lead role of a micro-battle focused on creating a new direct-to-consumer insurance product. If successful, it could transform the company’s broker-centric model and shake up the industry. Freddie was empowered to form his own team (most of them in their mid-40s) and co-create a micro-battle mission with them. The senior executive committee (Exco) asked to meet with him after each four-week Win-Scale cycle to discuss ways to accelerate or pivot the effort and how to remove obstacles. Freddie was fired up. […]

Oct 27

Brownies and Birthdays: Micro-battles in Action

By | October 27th, 2017|Micro-battles|0 Comments

We’ve done a lot of blogging lately on how to run micro-battles, and we recently completed the Micro-battles Compendium, which packages all of those blog posts in one convenient download. As we step back to catch our breath, we thought it would make sense to highlight a few micro-battles in action—starting with Leon, the British purveyor of “naturally fast food.” John Vincent, Leon’s cofounder, recently launched a micro-battle to improve like-for-like growth in the company’s stores (positive LFLs, in industry-speak). Here’s how it went.


Oct 2

The Micro-battles Approach vs. the Alternatives

By | October 2nd, 2017|Micro-battles|0 Comments

This blog post covers one topic. How should you think about deploying the full Micro-battles System vs. alternative approaches to becoming a scale insurgent? The question dovetails into another one: How does any of this fit with the day-to-day challenges of running your company? We start with a bit of empathy, then describe four different approaches and finally step back to discuss how to think about the right fit for you.


Oct 2

Accelerate and Fund Scaling: Actions to Address the Hardest Change Issues

By | October 2nd, 2017|Micro-battles|0 Comments

In a previous blog post, on the six design principles of a scale insurgent, we noted that aligning on your own set of design principles is a critical part of the micro-battles journey. We also said we’d follow up with a discussion on these questions: “As I start this journey toward becoming a scale insurgent, what are the hardest issues I’m going to face and how can I begin to address them?”


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