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 […]

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. […]

Nov 30

Bus No. 4: Keeping the insurgency alive

By | November 30th, 2015|Death of the nobler mission, Lost voices from the front line, The Journey North|0 Comments

BusHow do founders keep the insurgency alive in their organizations? This question was at the heart of our 19th Founder’s Mentality 100 (FM100) meeting, held in Johannesburg, and the conversation benefited from the experiences of two extraordinary former occupants of Bus No. 4.

It turns out that Adrian Gore, the founder and CEO of Discovery, and Robbie Brozin, the founder of Nando’s, shared the same bus to the King David School as kids. (For the record, both of them wanted to point out that Robbie was somewhat older!) Thank goodness for that bus driver—he had in his care the future founders of two South African companies that ultimately went global and illustrate how founders keep the insurgency alive as the company scales. […]

Jul 9

Janusian thinking and the scale insurgent

By | July 9th, 2015|The Journey North|0 Comments

Founder's Mentality blogJanus is the Roman god of beginnings and transitions, usually depicted with two faces staring in opposite directions. Albert Rothenberg, a psychiatrist well known for his research on the creative process, coined the term “Janusian thinking” to denote the extraordinary benefits that can emerge from considering opposites simultaneously.

Rothenberg writes that some of the world’s most creative thinkers developed their signature ideas and theories by first “conceiv[ing] as simultaneously true and not-true firmly held propositions” about everything ranging from laws of nature to business approaches. A favorite example: Albert Einstein imagined that a man falling from a roof was at rest (relatively) and in motion at the same time—an insight explained by his General Theory of Relativity. […]

May 14

Speed: 10 ways to create a faster company

By | May 14th, 2015|The Journey North|0 Comments

Speed: 10 ways to create a faster company Over the last four weeks, I’ve had 10 conversations with CEOs in the US and Europe who had all seen the Founder’s Mentality® video and asked for more detail about how to speed up their organizations. We’ve argued that speed is the main benefit of the Founder’s Mentality, as well as the first thing companies lose as they drift into an incumbent mindset. As I set out to draft 10 steps companies could follow to increase their speed, I kept hearing Jerry Lee Lewis’s piano pounding in my brain. Here’s why.

In February 1957, late into a recording session with legendary Sun Records producer Jack Clement, Jerry Lee Lewis recorded his classic hit “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” in one take. Including the actual time it took to record (less than three minutes) and a minute or so of discussion before and after, I’m guessing Lewis and Clement spent about five minutes creating one of the top rock-and-roll records of all time. That’s speed. […]

Mar 20

Cultural workflows: Is that your mother riding that elephant?

By | March 20th, 2015|The Journey North, The path to Scale Insurgency|0 Comments

Founder's MentalityIn my recent blog post on surgical strikes, we talked briefly about “cultural workflows” and how they can slow a company down. During our eight weeks of workshops on how incumbent companies can maintain their Founder’s Mentality®, this topic came up often. So I wanted to devote a full post to exploring different kinds of cultural workflows and offer some quick ways to address them.

Cultural workflows are disruptive activities that arise from otherwise sound cultural attributes. While a given attribute may have started out as a pure positive, over time it encourages negative behaviors. What makes these behaviors so hard to manage is that they hide behind the values companies hold most sacred. As one workshop participant said, “It’s like the elephant in the room is being ridden by your mother—no matter how stinky the elephant, who wants to be seen as attacking your mother!” […]

Nov 26

Why “nonnegotiables” and “values” aren’t the same thing

By | November 26th, 2014|The Journey North|0 Comments

14.11.18 Paraty w creditI’ve recently returned from São Paulo and Rio, where I had a series of meetings with some founder-led leadership teams. (A highlight: a helicopter ride from Angra dos Reis to Rio, during which we crossed over Paraty, my favorite Brazilian town, where my daughter took the picture we’re using for this post). The teams had participated in several Founder’s Mentality 100 (FM100) meetings or workshops and each had worked intensively to a) define their insurgency, b) define the three or four key capabilities that supported their insurgent mission and c) translate these into what we call nonnegotiables in conjunction with their “kings” (those people accountable for delivering the company’s customer promise). Crucially, they had also begun to understand the difference between nonnegotiables and values. […]

Sep 22

Incumbents and the Journey North, part 1

By | September 22nd, 2014|The Journey North, The path to Scale Insurgency|1 Comment

Founder's Mentality - Incumbents and the Journey NorthWhen I attended business school in Boston in the late 1980s, the big buzz was the notion of the “owner mindset.” We studied American economist Mike Jensen‘s classic paper, Theory of the Firm: Managerial Behavior, Agency Costs and Ownership Structure, and spent a lot of time debating what it meant for business leadership.

The core idea went this way: An owner mindset encourages company leaders to think about the resources they expend and the value they create as if these were their own. The purpose is to reconnect the interests of management and shareholders and discourage leaders from acting as if they were mere dispassionate custodians of a business institution. The idea, of course, became one of the most important business concepts over the past few decades and eventually spawned the spectacular growth of the private equity industry. For more than 20 years, Bain consultants have encouraged their clients to “think like an owner”—to review their strategies with an owner mindset and to align the broad interests of the company’s leadership and its shareholders. […]

Sep 12

Hammer time: Why Chinese founders value spikiness

By | September 12th, 2014|Net benefits of scale and scope, The Journey North, The path to Scale Insurgency|1 Comment

Founder's Mentality - Hammer time: Why Chinese founders value spikinessDuring our Founder’s Mentality 100 (FM100) meetings in Shanghai last week, the founders kept alluding to volleyball and Lang Ping, the former star player of the Chinese women’s Olympic volleyball team (and the former coach of the US women’s team). She helped China beat the US to win the gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

During a break, we talked to a couple of the founders about the reference. They noted that Lang Ping was known as the Iron Hammer, famed for her extraordinary ability to spike the ball and quickly bring a point to her team. Everyone knew that when the ball came to her she would handle it decisively, quickly and, more often than not, victoriously. […]

Sep 10

Step 6: Adapt

By | September 10th, 2014|The Journey North|0 Comments

Engine two

As we come to the final step in the Journey North, which is all about adaptation, there is good news and bad news for insurgent companies. The good news is that incumbents are notably bad at strategic adaptation and will always find it difficult to respond to the threat posed by insurgents in their industries. The bad news is that insurgents quickly become big, established companies themselves and also find it difficult to adapt. This leaves them no less vulnerable to new insurgents. […]

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