Predictable Success

Summary Written by Judi Walsh
"Any group of people can reach a state where they will consistently (and with relative ease) achieve their common goals – a state called Predictable Success. No special skills required; no leap of faith is needed; there are no mantras to learn or secrets to divine."

- Predictable Success, page vii

The Big Idea

So Why Isn't Everyone in Predictable Success?

"Organizations have been in existence for long enough, and in enough numbers, that the patterns of organizational success and failure are as clear as the night sky, but you need to know where to look."- Predictable Success, page 4

If it is so much easier to run an organization when it is in Predictable Success, why do so few businesses get and stay there?

The reason is a bizarre but simple one: Nobody ever told us such a thing existed. Most of us were never told that success could be learned, replicated, understood and scaled, nurtured and sustained.

We were told about cash flow, human resources, people management, vendor selection, discount pricing, strategies and tactics, five P’s and Six Sigmas – and a thousand other nuggets of information. But we were never shown how all of it could (and should) add up to more than fleeting or momentary or seasonal success: how we could, if we took the right steps, develop a type of success that could be replicated over time and in any environment. Put simply: we were given the tools for success and an expectation of success, but no dependable way of combining the two to consistently achieve success.

Because of this missing link – no dependable connection between the tools we have and the results we want – our experience in creating and sustaining success tends to be patchy: Sometimes stuff works and sometimes it doesn’t. Look at the business book titles and you’ll see how universal the elusiveness of business success is.

Insight #1

Having A Map Means You Know Where You Are Going

"Predictable Success is one of the seven stages of growth and decline through which every organization progresses."- Predictable Success, page 16

Not every organization makes it all the way through all seven stages. Imagine a bell curve and you will see Predictable Success at the apex of the curve.

The three growth stages before the apex are Early Struggle, Fun and Whitewater. Early Struggle feels as if you are hacking through the jungle, fighting to keep your newborn organization alive and finding cash to do so. Fun stage is when you have enough cash to take the pressure off and have an established market. The focus shifts from cash to sales. In Whitewater stage your business becomes more complex, and the emphasis shifts from sales to profitability. Achieving sustained, profitable growth requires putting consistent processes, policies and systems in place.

At the apex is Predictable Success. Here you can set and consistently achieve your goals and objectives with a consistent, predictable degree of success. Unlike Fun (when you were growing, but weren’t quite sure how or why), now you know why you are successful, and you can use that information to sustain growth in the long term. When your team reaches the apex, you have reached the prime stage in your organization’s growth.

The three declining stages after Predictable Success are Treadmill, the Big Rut and Death Rattle. Treadmill stage indicates the organization has become formulaic and arthritic. Lots of energy being expended but there is little forward momentum. It is a dangerous stage for the business. The Big Rut is where process and administration have become more important than action and results. The organization loses its ability to be self-aware and cannot diagnose its own sickness and decline. The Death Rattle is where bureaucracies make a final attempt to resuscitate the organization whether by bankruptcy practioners or by being acquired. The organization dies in its present form.

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Insight #2

What Predictable Success Is Not

"Predictable Success isn’t a made up theory – it’s an intuitive, natural reflection of the way things really are in predictably successful organizations – and sometimes, reality just refuses to be neat and tidy."- Predictable Success, page 22

It’s not about size.
It’s not about age.
It’s not about money or other resources.
It’s not a culture.
It’s not about how meetings are held.
It’s not about the industry you are in.

An organization that is in Predictable Success stage exhibits five main characteristics that, taken together, distinguish it from organizations at other stages of the growth cycle. The five characteristics are:

1. Decision making: the ability to readily make and consistently implement decisions.
2. Goal setting: the ability to readily set and consistently achieve goals.
3. Alignment: structure, process and people are in harmony.
4. Accountability: employees become self-accountable, in addition to being externally accountable to others.
5. Ownership: Employees take personal responsibility for their actions and outcomes.

McKeown dispenses with jargon and uses simple language to show you how to spot the various stages. He explains what actions may have helped get you there, and how to move out of an undesirable stage. In the remaining 165 pages, he elegantly details tangible ways to build the five main characteristics so you can have more control and bring sustained and lasting growth to your organization.

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Les Mckeown


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