by Braden Kelley
Les McKeown is the President & CEO of Predictable Success, and has 25 years of global business experience, including starting 42 companies in his own right, and as the founding partner of an incubation consulting company that launched hundreds of businesses worldwide.
“Predictable Success” is a book focused on helping people understand the natural evolution of businesses and why some succeed and some fail. The book hinges on a simple, illustrative framework that makes the case that business success is not something to be achieved, but instead something to be maintained. You don’t arrive at business success and stay successful, but instead continually fight to maintain the delicate balance between too much policy and process, and too little.
Les McKeown asserts that there are seven different descriptors that any successful business can take on at any one time. The key here is ’successful’ business.
- Early Struggle
- Predictable Success
- The Big Rut
- Death Rattle
What is ‘Predictable Success’?
Well, in a nutshell, ‘Predictable Success’ is the peak of the mountain, it’s what every organization does (or should) aspire towards – when at the same time everyone in the organization expects to succeed AND the necessary amount of systems and processes exist to help realize those expectations. It’s that state where the engine is tuned perfectly and you know that if you put gas in the tank, turn on the ignition, put it in gear, take off the brake, and press the accelerator – the organization will go forward.
The Seven Descriptors on Fast Forward
‘Predictable Success’ is the pinnacle, the top of the hill, what every new organization aspires towards. But let’s face facts, most businesses are born and die in the first one. In the ‘Early Struggle’, existence is all about finding the right customers with the right product or service and making a sufficient level of profit just to survive. It becomes ‘Fun’ when cashflow is positive and the business is succeeding and growing. But as the organization grows it reaches the ‘Whitewater’ – where the volume of orders and demands from customers exceed the organization’s ability to cope – fast and loose becomes fast and lost, and the organization begins to struggle because it needs more structure and process to cope with its own success. If the organization succeeds in establishing the systems and processes necessary to manage their growth, then they enter ‘Predictable Success’, but usually at some point organizations go too far with systems and processes and the culture and success of the organization begins to suffer. Left unchecked the organization falls into ‘The Big Rut’ – where people begin to work for the systems and processes instead of for the customers. And left unaddressed, companies in ‘The Big Rut’ will continue to bleed cash until they face the ‘Death Rattle’ and end up being sold or going bankrupt.
So, what are the keys to ‘Predictable Success’?
Well, Les McKeown suggests that companies focus on fine-tuning five major areas of their business and culture:
The efficiency and effectiveness of your organization in these five areas will determine whether you are in ‘Predictable Success’, and in the second part of the book, Les addresses how to get to predictable success and stay there. He uses a simple visual model to highlight the areas that organizations need to focus on in order to stay in ‘Predictable Success’, and at the center of the visual framework is Ownership & Self-Accountability. When your organizational structure and culture encourage and support ownership and self-accountability, then and only then will your employees be able to engage in the necessary risk-taking for innovation. Les’ framework can help to serve as a reminder of some of the things you need to build and maintain in your organization in order to have the necessary culture of ownership and self-accountability.
Overall I found Les McKeown’s book an enjoyable read and felt that it did a good job of both providing a view on why some organizations succeed while other’s fail, while also showing how any successful organization can begin to slide downwards from success to failure without conscious effort. There is a lot of good thinking in the book, and it is laid out in a nice visual and easy to follow (and reference) manner.
I would love to hear what you think in the comments (especially if you’ve read this book).
Braden Kelley is the editor of Blogging Innovation and founder of Business Strategy Innovation, a consultancy focusing on innovation and marketing strategy. Braden is also the author of the forthcoming book “Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire” from John Wiley & Sons.