The Bain Micro-Battles System

An image of an orca whale, leaping out of the water and signifying the Bain Micro-Battles System.

In the new era of business, leading firms will be big and fast. Micro-battles can help companies rediscover the art of business building to compete with scale and speed.

Every management team will face the growth paradox at some point. And as described in the book The Founder’s Mentality, there are three different phases in the default life cycle of a firm:

  • Insurgent. These younger companies grow fast. Speed is one of their most important assets. They still have the great culture established by their founder, or their “Founder’s Mentality®.” But they need scale. They’re trying to gain the economic benefits of size, without losing speed as a result of layers and bureaucrats. If they don’t maintain speed while capturing scale, they risk becoming overloaded with complexity.
  • Incumbent. These established companies lead their industry in some key niches, if not overall. While these strong, professional organizations have captured the benefits of size, it has come at a tremendous cost. They’ve lost any sense of entrepreneurial culture. They’re slow and vulnerable to emerging insurgents. They can’t respond quickly to industry turbulence. They need to gain speed and rediscover the lost art of building new businesses, or their growth will stall.
  • Struggling bureaucracy. These firms are in deep trouble. They’ve been the leader in their industry, but they can’t react to competitors fast enough. Their size is a liability. Their growth is in free fall. These firms need a radical change before it’s too late.

Yet a small number of companies, about 7%, are able to capture the benefits of scale and speed. They build scale and achieve leadership economics without sacrificing the speed and energy that powered their steady growth. We call these rare firms “scale insurgents.” No matter where companies are on the growth journey, they can combat the crisis of growth and transform into scale insurgents.

Micro-battles—discrete, time-boxed initiatives that rapidly bring strategic choices to action and formulate ways to scale the results—are a potent way to break through complexity and transform the organization’s behaviors. They teach fast insurgents to capture the benefits of scale without “professionalizing” and losing speed. They teach large incumbents to move quickly, deploying new ideas across their huge organizations and staying ahead of industry change. Paired with radical programs to reduce cost and complexity, even struggling bureaucracies can use micro-battles to get their mojo back.

Full article: Bain Micro Battles Systems