Have you ever wondered how the most enduring institutions and the most memorable brands earned their status among the greats? Was it chance? Was it hard work? Was it them being smarter than their competition? Was it taking big risks or setting audacious goals? Was it consistency and patience? Was it a charismatic, larger-than-life leader?

Many, if not all, played a part in their success, but the answer is more straightforward and dynamic. The leaders in these organizations recognized when they were in the growth cycle and chose the appropriate (although often counter-intuitive) strategy.

By choosing (or sometimes happening upon) the right strategy, they followed a remarkably predictable path to greatness. This path has been mapped out by Les McKeown in the Predictable Success Model.

Getting into Predictable Success

Using this model, we can trace the histories of these great companies, nonprofits, governments, and movements through existentially trying times as they fought to survive stage 1, Early Struggle. We can then see the early glory days of the organization when they grew rapidly and could turn on a dime in stage 2, Fun. While much of the value they created as an organization was indeed created during Fun, it was not until the company stood the test of stage 3, Whitewater that they truly learned to harness that value. To overcome the turbulence of Whitewater, they had to learn the difference between growing and scaling.

To grow, all you need to do is build the capacity to deliver consistent quality in the face of simplicity. This is the first stage growth, 

However, to scale, you need to increase your capacity until you can deliver consistent quality, even in the face of complexity. And this requires a whole new set of tools.

Once they recognized this difference and chose to implement the systems and processes necessary to achieve scale, they reached the pinnacle stage of their ability to innovate, take ground, move the whole organization, and do it all with incredible profitability and grace.

This is stage 4: Predictable Success. Predictable Success is where you, as the leader, can put your foot on the gas pedal, and the whole organization moves forward. You now have a level of control that you thought you had in Fun, but realized you’d never had once Whitewater hit, and you couldn’t right the ship using your existing tools. You found the tools, made the necessary changes, and in Predictable Success, you reap the rewards. In Predictable Success, you build a legacy that will last well past your time leading the company.

Staying in Predictable Success

Unlike human aging, businesses don’t age as a function of time. Businesses age almost exclusively as a function of choice (although that choice isn’t always made within the organization).

This means an organization can stay at any stage for as long as it wants or, in some cases, for as long as it fails to understand how to progress. 

The great news here is that you (and even your successors) can theoretically keep your organization in Predictable Success for as long as desired.

To stay in Predictable Success, you need to hold vision, creativity, and initiative in tension with execution, system, and process. 

To stay in Predictable Success, you need to hold vision, creativity, and initiative in tension with execution, system, and process. Click To Tweet

Unfortunately, many businesses fail to understand either what created their success in the first place or fail to keep doing those activities that made them successful. Some believe they think what got them here is what is going to take them further ahead perpetually.

You and your organization don’t have to fall into any of those categories. You also don’t need to be an unparalleled leader. You don’t need to be the smartest person in the room. You don’t need to do most of the things people tell you that you need to do.

Instead, you have to be good at just a few simple fundamentals. They are easy to understand and easy to do. The hard part is sticking with it and staying diligent. Doing this is where many businesses fail to remain in Predictable Success.

They overvalue creativity and initiative, slide back into Whitewater, or overvalue execution, systems, and processes and quietly ease into stage 5: Treadmill.

Four Key Strategies

This doesn’t have to be your story. You can keep your business in Predictable Success for the long-haul using these four key strategies!

Embrace all four leadership styles

The best way to hold vision, creativity, initiative, execution, system, and process in tension is to have all four leadership styles represented co-equally on your leadership team. Having the Visionary, Operator, Processor, and Synergist will provide the diversity of thought you need to sustain your success for the long haul. For more information on the four leadership style, you can read Les’s book, The Synergist and you can find your leadership style using this free quiz

Work in Cycles: Staying in Predictable Success requires a recognition of the cycles that produce lasting growth. I break these cycles in the three repeating phases. Phase 1: Invent is Visionary dominant. New ideas are formed and tried. Risks are taken, and goals set. In Phase 2: Implement one of those ideas sticks, and the Operators take the lead. In Phase 3: Improve the Processors systematize the solution for repeatability and scale throughout the organization.

Focus on enterprise-wide innovation: To stay in Predictable Success, you want to continue encouraging and consistently reinforcing innovation in every department. Doing this ensures you can continue to create new and lasting value and prevents you from merely riding out the last wave.

Preparing for key transitions: Transition planning is a crucial task that we struggle to focus on due to a lack of urgency. Unfortunately, preparing a transition plan when it is urgent is a sure-fire way to set yourself up for failure. Here are a few examples of transitions you need to prepare for in advance: 

  • The Founder’s Exit
  • Ownership Changes
  • Key leadership transitions
  • Acquisitions by your company
  • New divisions or product/service lines

I’ve written a full article about staying in Predictable Success that explains each of these points in greater detail. Click here Keeping your business in top form for the long haul to read more.


Getting to and staying in Predictable Success is hard work, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. During this time, leadership and success transform into a lasting legacy that can live beyond your years. It is here that true organizational greatness is achieved, and I can’t wait to see you and your business reach and sustain Predictable Success!

If you think you are in Predictable Success but aren’t quite sure, I’d like to encourage you to take the free Lifecycle assessment at https://bit.ly/Lifecycle-Quiz to find out for sure and to see around the corner at what is next for your business!

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