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?”
This blog asks and tries to answer one question: “What are the organizational design principles that define a scale insurgent?” First, let’s remind ourselves why this question is so important.
- Your ambition is to become the scale insurgent in your industry. You want to capture the benefits of size as you grow (scale/scope advantages, learning, market power and influence) while also retaining a strong sense of the Founder’s Mentality (insurgency, frontline obsession, owner mindset). We call companies that do this scale insurgents.
- You’re going to pursue this ambition by launching micro-battles. While there are multiple building blocks that comprise what you do to become a scale insurgent, micro-battles represent the how. Through micro-battles you rediscover the art of getting things done fast and the science of learning. We talk about this as a […]
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 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.
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 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 […]
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 […]
This 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:
- How well do they maintain their Founder’s Mentality as they grow?
- How effectively are they capturing the benefits of their increasing size?
All great companies start as insurgents, at war against their industries on behalf of underserved […]
Insurgent 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 […]