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.

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Apr 30

Rediscover the Insurgency and Capability Spikes to Accelerate Growth

By | April 30th, 2017|Frontline obsession, Insurgency, The path to Scale Insurgency|0 Comments

Rediscover-insurgency220x207People who work for insurgent companies are on a mission to redefine their industries. They know what their company stands for, and they believe its offerings can transform an underserved customer segment. They have a clear bias for action and a loathing of bureaucracy.

But as these same companies evolve into industry leaders, the sense of insurgency that fueled their growth often wanes. People begin to define themselves by the timeworn rules of their industry and start defending the status quo rather than continuously reimagining it.

The first building block on the path to scale insurgency, then, is to rediscover the insurgency and lock it in with the key people who must deliver it. Think about three things here.

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Feb 6

Leon: Founder’s Mentality in Action

By | February 6th, 2017|Frontline obsession, Insurgency, Video|0 Comments

It’s popcorn time again.   A while back we offered up a little film on Jaipur Rugs and how the company’s founder and his leadership team kept their insurgent mission alive by connecting their weavers and customers.   Now we tell the story of UK-based fast food chain Leon and the founder’s quest to answer a simple question:  “What if God Made Fast Food?”

Please enjoy this remarkable story of Founder’s Mentality in action.  As you watch the video, ask yourself:

  1. Are our people as passionate about the insurgent mission of our company as Leon’s team?   (For that matter, you might ask whether your own company still has a clear insurgent mission.)
  2. Does this passion translate into a different customer experience?   Does your company have the same sense of frontline empowerment, where each team feels like mini-founders transforming their industry?

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Dec 28

How to Super-size the Economy

By | December 28th, 2016|Frontline obsession, Insurgency, Owner mindset|0 Comments

founder-special-sauce-220x207One of the new movies on offer this holiday season is the Michael Keaton film “The Founder,” which depicts how Ray Kroc’s relentless drive turned a small California restaurant into the ubiquitous McDonald’s chain.

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed James Allen and I wrote called “The Company Founder’s Special Sauce” (subscription required, or view the digital reprint on Bain.com). In it, we noted that Kroc epitomized many of the traits of the Founder’s Mentality. Indeed, his autobiography, Grinding It Out, was one of many books by founders I read during our years of research for our book, The Founder’s Mentality. […]

Dec 28

FxE=R: Finding the Right Balance

By | December 28th, 2016|Founder's Mentality defined, Frontline obsession, Net benefits of scale and scope, The curse of the matrix, The Journey North|0 Comments

Finding balanceEarlier this year, I used the fading summer months as an excuse to choose a nice pub in the bucolic London suburb of Richmond to meet with Richard Rose and Noel Collett, the respective chairman and chief executive of Crawshaws. What I didn’t expect in such leafy surroundings was a math tutorial, but I came away with a new understanding of a simple equation: FxE=R.

Let’s back up. I have long been fascinated by Crawshaws, which is essentially a company of local butchers. Using the language of the Founder’s Mentality, you can tell its story simply. Crawshaws’ insurgent mission is to redefine the fresh meat industry by combining the best of a local butcher shop (community orientation, entrepreneurship and devotion to serving local consumers) with the best of a chain grocer (size, sophistication and central buyers who can secure great prices on fresh meat). The franchise players—the people with the mission-critical roles in such a company—are the local butchers (who deliver intimacy) and the national buyers (who deliver scale). How you create a company that strikes the right balance between them was the key question on our agenda. […]

Apr 8

How Micro-battles Can Restore the Customer-Led Growth Engine

By | April 8th, 2016|Fragmentation of the customer experience, Frontline obsession|1 Comment

fm-wheel-engine-customer-led-growth-220x207As an insurgent, your company declared war against your industry on behalf of underserved customers. What you lacked in size, you made up for in speed, with every function focused on customers and the front line, working together to tackle customer issues quickly. This relentless experimentation not only helped your customers, it also produced a constant stream of innovation that was a major engine of organic growth.

But as you grew bigger and more bureaucratic, internal issues stole attention from customers. You now spend more time optimizing functions (and negotiating among them) than you do with your customers. Innovation is handled by a centrally controlled pipeline far from the front line. Customers are neither involved… nor welcome. And growth grinds to a halt.

Sound familiar? […]

Apr 5

The Lost Engines of Growth

By | April 5th, 2016|Frontline obsession, Lost voices from the front line|0 Comments

fm-wheel-engine-v02All leaders constantly must address the growth paradox: Growth creates complexity, and complexity kills growth. In these blogs, we have talked a lot about the first half of that paradox—that is, how growth creates complexity. We’ve highlighted how companies gain from the benefits of their new size as they grow—including scale and scope advantage, market power and influence—but lose their Founder’s Mentality. And we’ve examined the organizational costs of this loss—namely, speed, employee engagement and clarity about which talent matters.

In the next couple blogs, though, we’re going to focus specifically on the second half of the paradox—that is, how complexity kills growth—by discussing what we call the “lost engines of growth.” Below are the three engines we see companies losing most often. […]

Mar 2

The Golden Thread, or A Movie and Three Questions

By | March 2nd, 2016|Frontline obsession, Insurgency, Owner mindset, Uncategorized, Video|0 Comments

Grab some popcorn; we’re going to watch a little movie and then have a discussion. The movie is a short version of a story we’ve told here before—the story of Jaipur Rugs, the story of Founder’s Mentality in action. Please enjoy.


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Dec 18

The elements of Founder’s Mentality: Relentless experimentation

By | December 18th, 2015|Founder's Mentality defined, Frontline obsession|0 Comments

FM-Wheel-frontline-obsession-relentless-experimentation-220x207This is the sixth of nine blog posts examining the elements of Founder’s Mentality: Insurgency, frontline obsession and owner mindset. Here, we look at relentless experimentation, one of the sub-elements of frontline obsession.

Leaders of insurgent companies are endlessly restless. They are determined to shape the future and are committed to thrive in turbulence, not fall victim to it. This requires constant innovation around the customer and the customer offering and, more fundamentally, around the business. […]

Dec 18

The elements of Founder’s Mentality: Frontline empowerment

By | December 18th, 2015|Founder's Mentality defined, Frontline obsession|0 Comments

FM-Wheel-frontline-obsession-empowerment-220x207This is the fifth of nine blog posts examining the elements of Founder’s Mentality: Insurgency, frontline obsession and owner mindset. Here, we look at frontline empowerment, one of the sub-elements of frontline obsession.

As companies grow, one of the first casualties of the resulting complexity is the front line. But that doesn’t happen at companies with high Founder’s Mentality because one of their defining characteristics is a frontline obsession—along with an extraordinary sense of insurgency and an owner mindset (see the figure below for the sub-elements of each). […]

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