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.


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. […]

Dec 4

Insurgents and customer loyalty

By | December 4th, 2015|Lost voices from the front line|0 Comments

nps-podcast-220x207We use the word “insurgents” to define companies with strong Founder’s Mentality, because those companies are literally at war with their industries on behalf of underserved customers. They’re on a mission to give customers better service or better products, or both. That’s why the company exists and why an obsession with the front line is one of the key elements of the Founder’s Mentality. Losing touch with the voices from the front line is one of the biggest risks insurgents face as they scale.

Recently, I talked about this on a podcast with my colleague Rob Markey, who is just as obsessed with customers and the front line as any company founder. Rob is a leading expert on customer loyalty and the coauthor, with Fred Reichheld, of The Ultimate Question 2.0—the definitive book on the Net Promoter System®. […]

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. […]

Mar 17

Six lessons from the hardest job on the “court”

By | March 17th, 2015|Frontline obsession, Lost voices from the front line|0 Comments

stopDuring our two months of workshops exploring how large, incumbent companies can regain their Founder’s Mentality, we spent a lot of time talking about the importance of defining your “kings” (those most accountable for delivering your customer promise) and the “court” (those whose primary goal should be to support the kings). As we’ve written many times in this blog, clarity of this sort ensures that the whole organization is customer focused, either directly or indirectly. […]

Dec 2

Chocolates, radishes and the energy vampires

By | December 2nd, 2014|Lost voices from the front line, The complexity doom loop|0 Comments

Small garden radishI know … you’re probably thinking I chose the title of this post by throwing a handful of those little word magnets against our fridge. Close, but not quite. Actually, I’m reading Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, and he cites a study on willpower that I think applies to our work on the Founder’s Mentality®, particularly regarding the twin dangers of increased complexity and the rise of the “energy vampire.”  His story supplies the chocolates and radishes. I supply the energy vampire. […]

Nov 25

Future makers vs. future takers: Long-term thinking

By | November 25th, 2014|Frontline obsession, Lost voices from the front line|0 Comments

The long viewThe notion of future maker vs. future taker is a mindset issue. It is the difference between seeing the future as a good thing, filled with disruptive innovation that will extend your mission, or seeing it as a bad thing, filled with disruptions that will only upset your current market share and profitability. Typically, insurgent companies view themselves as future makers; incumbents gradually come to behave like future takers. As we discussed in a previous post, this can lead to radical differences in how a company views innovation. In this post, I want to talk about how it affects long-term thinking. […]

Sep 16

The power in a bowl of M&M’s

By | September 16th, 2014|Frontline obsession, Lost voices from the front line|0 Comments

Founder's Mentality - The power of M&M'sThe story of heavy-metal band Van Halen and the brown M&M’s is legend in rock-and-roll circles. But in the hands of authors Dan and Chip Heath, it has also become surprisingly relevant for business leaders.

As the story goes, Van Halen had a food rider in its contract demanding that a bowl of M&M’s candy—with all the brown ones removed—be placed in the band’s dressing room. The clause quickly became emblematic of celebrity excess (especially given the band’s reputation for bad behavior). […]

Aug 5

Nemawashi: Speed and consensus-building can co-exist

By | August 5th, 2014|Lost voices from the front line, The erosion of accountability|0 Comments

Founder's Mentality - Going slow to go fastWhen it comes to discussing effective decision-making processes, my Bain colleague Jimmy Allen has a favorite parable: He talks about an early job working as a “clearer” for the deputy assistant of international trade within the US Department of Commerce.

The clearer existed to collect approvals for the stream of official documents passed around Washington. Typically, some policy guy would draft a document and then staple a yellow sheet of paper on the front with 50 or more names and titles on it. Jimmy’s job was to shuffle between offices up and down the Washington Mall seeking signatures and fixes. Any adjustments would mean a second draft and another trip around the mall in the sticky summer heat.


Jun 27

The bigger we get, the smaller we think

By | June 27th, 2014|Lost voices from the front line, Net benefits of scale and scope, The complexity doom loop, The path to Scale Insurgency|0 Comments

Founder's Mentality - The bigger we get, the smaller we thinkIn meetings with clients over the past few weeks, a common theme has emerged regarding the perils of planning as companies grow. The latest instance was at a meeting in the US in which several founders on a panel were discussing the positives and negatives of being bought by a large corporation. One of them raised an issue I’ll paraphrase this way: “I don’t want this to be quoted back to me when we set this year’s budgets, but one thing has really struck me about joining a corporate parent—I’m being encouraged to think smaller.”

That echoed something I’d heard a few weeks earlier in a conversation with a partner at a private equity firm. “The bigger we get, the more conservative we’ve become,” he said. “It is now viewed as a good thing to hit the very conservative investment thesis formed at the time we did the original deal. As we grow, it is a lot harder to ‘think big’ and take risks to create a 10X deal.”  […]

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