As we noted in our blog post on winning skills, successful micro-battles depend on the ability to translate a company’s most important strategic initiatives into what we call “first failure points.” By that we mean you need to identify the biggest potential problem or hurdle that could derail the initiative and deal with that first by making it the focus of the micro-battle. Readers have been pretty clear in their feedback: This feels like a big idea, but I want to know more. So here is a detailed look at how scale insurgents master the critical skill of identifying first failure points so they can use micro-battles to solve them.
We described in earlier blog posts the Micro-Battles System and the skills and behaviors necessary to run it. Now we are writing a series of posts on hot topics—this one on how to choose micro-battles. Here’s what to consider.
Micro-battles demand a strong strategic foundation
Micro-battles aren’t small things. They are your most important strategic initiatives. Strategic clarity is therefore critical when choosing them. While we believe it’s important to get started fast on your first wave of micro-battles, a program based on random initiatives will most likely lose momentum and fail. Selecting a coherent, impactful set of micro-battle initiatives depends first on two things.
You’ve bought the Micro-Battles System and opened the box. You’re impressed by the awesome packaging and pull out one of those quick-setup infographic pages. This is our best shot at what that might look like. We’ve linked it heavily to other blog posts and videos, and we hope you find it useful. We’ve set it up as a 10-point checklist for the first 100 days, but you could also call it “How I Get Started with Micro-Battles without Blowing Up My Company.” Let’s jump right into the 10 steps.
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 specific goal of running a micro-battle portfolio is to change fundamentally the behaviors of the company’s most senior leaders. We talked about the benefits of leading by getting out of the way. The executive committee’s second job is to learn. In this context, that means two broad activities. First, the Lead-Learn team tries to spot patterns emanating from a portfolio of micro-battles and make sure the leaders of those battles talk to each other when they face similar problems or are close to similar solutions. Second, leaders use this flow of information to adjust the firm’s strategy and their own behaviors. If a common set of bureaucratic obstacles is slowing down every micro-battle, it might signal the need to adjust the organization.
This kind of learning will ensure that the firm benefits from its scale. The challenge is to make the […]
The skills involved in leading an existing set of micro-battles are fun and pretty easy to define. On an 80/20 basis, you’d do pretty well by just staying out of the way of your micro-battle teams. But we’ll be a bit more specific in this blog post. The exam question is, “How do a group of senior incumbent leaders help a micro-battle leader get on with it and win the battle without a lot of interference or second-guessing?” To get this right demands three sets of skills:
- listening and role modeling;
- giving and coaching; and
This ain’t that complicated, so we’ll get through it quickly.
As we’ve said elsewhere in these blog posts, each micro-battle team faces a dual challenge: winning and scaling. We define winning in this context as taking a targeted strategic initiative and translating it into a prototype that can be tested successfully in the marketplace. Scaling involves turning that winning prototype into a repeatable model and rolling it out across the organization. Winning is about rediscovering your Founder’s Mentality; scaling is about taking advantage of your size.
The scaling skills are simple to define and hard to deploy. The exam question is, “What is the right repeatable model, and what is the best way to roll it out so it will be adopted by the front line?” This demands three sets of skills:
- developing the right repeatable model;
- choosing the right rollout strategy; and
- deciding where this repeatable model should live in […]
We introduced in a separate blog post the Micro-Battles System, which involves the Win-Scale model (how you run a micro-battle) and the Lead-Learn model (how you run a portfolio of micro-battles). We then introduced the story of Freddie, to emphasize how important behavioral change is to running individual battles and a portfolio of battles. Now, we turn to the key skills you will build as you work on winning, scaling, leading and learning. This blog post covers the skills involved in winning.
Five quick contextual points:
- Micro-battles are the “how” of becoming a scale insurgent. You run each micro-battle like a microcosm of the company you want to become.
- Each micro-battle team is trying to do two things simultaneously: a) take a targeted strategic initiative and translate it into a prototype that can be tested in the market; and b) […]
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 their 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 they picked to lead a micro-battle focused on creating a new direct-to-consumer insurance product.
We will cover Freddie’s story from two angles: Here we will focus on how Freddie ran his own team and the leadership challenges he faced; in a separate blog post, we will look at Property-Casualty’s senior management team and the challenges they faced while reviewing progress on Freddie’s micro-battle. As we will see, […]