Jun 30

The Art of Choosing Micro-battles

By | June 30th, 2017|Micro-battles|0 Comments

We described in earlier blog posts the Bain Micro-battles SystemSM and the skills and behaviors necessary to run it. Now we’re 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.


Jun 22

The Win-Scale Model: Scaling a Repeatable Model

By | June 22nd, 2017|Micro-battles|0 Comments

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 […]
Jun 22

The Win-Scale Model: Winning by Failing

By | June 22nd, 2017|Micro-battles|0 Comments

We introduced in a separate blog post the Bain Micro-Battles SystemSM, which involves the Win-Scale model (how you run a micro-battle) and the Amplify 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’ll build as you work on winning, scaling and amplifying. 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) take […]
May 25

The Win-Scale Model: Leading at the Micro-Battle Level

By | May 25th, 2017|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 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’ll 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, both […]

May 6

Introducing the Bain Micro-battles System℠

By | May 6th, 2017|Founder's Mentality defined, Insurgency, Micro-battles, Net benefits of scale and scope, Southward winds, The Journey North, The path to Scale Insurgency, Westward winds|0 Comments

Micro-Battles-220x207This Founder’s Mentality® topic has become quite hot, and we’re working with a lot of business leaders on how to become scale insurgents. Central to this work is the idea of micro-battles, which at their simplest help large companies rediscover the art of getting stuff done fast. Let’s introduce you to what we call the Bain Micro-battles System.

Context: The six building blocks on the journey to scale insurgency

Context matters. What matters most is the growth paradox: Growth creates complexity, and complexity kills growth. Understanding how companies respond to this core problem has led us to look at companies on two dimensions:

All great companies start as insurgents, at war against their industries on behalf of underserved […]

May 5

Create a Company of Insurgents

By | May 5th, 2017|Insurgency, The path to Scale Insurgency|0 Comments

Company-of-Insurgents220x207Insurgent companies thrive on a culture of speed, focus and a direct connection to customers. But as any leader of a large incumbent company can attest, those cultural attributes are often the first casualty of a growing bureaucracy. Meetings and deliberation swallow up speed. Process and systems muffle the voice of the front line and customers. The sheer complexity of the portfolio overwhelms the clarity of the insurgent mission.

As we discussed in the first building block, reviving growth and sustaining it starts with rediscovering the insurgency and locking it in with the people who need to deliver it. But inspiring your people to act like insurgents also involves a concerted effort to revive the insurgent culture that was so critical to the company’s ability to win against larger competitors with deeper resources. The key is to reeducate the organization about what […]

May 4

Simplify to Fuel Growth

By | May 4th, 2017|Insurgency, The path to Scale Insurgency|0 Comments

Simplify220x207Vocabulary matters in business. One of the problems many large companies face is that bureaucrats have won the vocabulary war. They want us to believe that the opposite of simple is advanced and that to simplify means to dumb down, to cut corners, to somehow be less advanced.

But for our purposes, the opposite of simple is complex. To simplify is to improve systems and processes by making them more straightforward. Importantly, simplification is also a way to redeploy. Streamlining something or making it easier to do allows you to free up resources and move them elsewhere to support other priorities.


May 3

Build Learning Systems To Reconnect with Customers and the Front Line

By | May 3rd, 2017|Fragmentation of the customer experience, Frontline obsession, Lost voices from the front line, The path to Scale Insurgency|0 Comments

Learning-systems220x207For many people in business, the “experience curve” has become an artifact of the manufacturing age. While it explained a lot about market supremacy when huge, stable producers like General Motors and Caterpillar led the economy, it is less useful as a predictor of dominance in the digital world.

The concept is simple: The more a company does of something, the more it learns and the better it should get at doing it. The resulting efficiency becomes a major competitive advantage, which only increases as the company gets bigger and gains more experience. In modern industries characterized by turbulence and technological disruption, however, a feisty insurgent can very quickly render a company’s accumulated experience irrelevant. And with the global shift to services, where unit costs are less of an issue, the relationship between experience and efficiency is not so clear.


May 2

Refocus the Operating Model on Your Franchise Players

By | May 2nd, 2017|Insurgency, The path to Scale Insurgency|0 Comments

Franchise-players220x207As they drift along the default path toward struggling bureaucracy, companies very often lose focus on the employees who really matter—those in mission-critical roles. We refer to these employees as “franchise players.” They are the people who deliver the insurgent mission to customers.

Imagine, for instance, I’m a big box specialty retailer of kitchen and bathroom plumbing fixtures. My insurgent mission is to deliver “well-designed, contemporary kitchen and bath fixtures at wholesale prices.” Now imagine I’m a consumer attracted by that mission and I head into the store to buy a modern rain shower-type shower head. Who delivers that insurgent promise to me?

Well, first it must be the store category manager who is responsible for the shower head aisle. She has arranged the aisle, kept it clean, and made sure the right choices are easy to find. She’s also probably walking the aisle ready to advise me. All in all, she’s delivering the benefit of customer intimacy that is part of any great insurgent mission.


May 1

Build Engine 2 to Challenge Industry Rules and Boundaries

By | May 1st, 2017|Insurgency, The path to Scale Insurgency|0 Comments

Engine-2-220x207Incumbent companies are notably bad at strategic adaptation and will always find it difficult to respond to the threat posed by insurgents in their industries. Yet sustainable growth often demands the ability to explore and commit to new revenue streams to offset the natural slowing of a mature core business. Leadership’s first priority has to be giving the core business model more room to run by reviving the Founder’s Mentality® and dialing in growth led by the front line. But leadership also has to entertain the notion of working on a new business model in parallel.

These things don’t have to be mutually exclusive—scale insurgents focus on optimization and innovation at the same time. The challenge involves mindsets. Most large companies have to force themselves to adapt their strategy-development process to cope with the chronic turbulence and uncertainty of global markets. This rarely comes naturally to an organization vested in the status quo. Large companies also have to look at the innovation challenge through a new set of lenses. They have to upend an incumbent’s propensity to fight the future and must encourage people to imagine how they can use the company’s biggest assets—scale and accumulated experience—to disrupt markets rather than defend them.


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