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  • Treadmill is the fifth stage in any organization’s development, coming after Early Struggle, Fun, Whitewater and Predictable Success.
  • An organization moves into Treadmill when it becomes over-dependent on systems and processes.
  • Over-systemization in turn leads to a loss of creativity, risk-taking and entrepreneurial zeal.
  • This can often be accompanied by the departure of the founder or owner, as they become frustrated, lose autonomy and seek new challenges.
  • Treadmill is not inevitable—an organization can avoid it (and stay in Predictable Success) by “institutionalizing” creativity, risk-taking and entrepreneurial zeal.
  • When in Treadmill, it is possible to step back into Predictable Success by reintroducing creativity, risk-taking and entrepreneurial zeal.
  • If it does not do so, the organization will decline further, sliding into The Big Rut.
  • The key difference between Treadmill and The Big Rut is that in Treadmill the organiza- tion is still capable of self-diagnosis, and can therefore correct its decline. In The Big Rut, the organization loses the ability to be self-diagnostic.
  • Working for an organization in Treadmill can feel sterile and unfulfilling. There is a preference for form over function, and compliance over results.


Treadmill is one of the 4 visible danger zones in the growth Lifecycle. The longer you stay there, the closer you get to losing the ability to self-diagnose and falling in to The Big Rut, a stage of decline from which there is no return.

"The only threat to an organization that is bigger than being caught in Treadmill, is to not get out of there as soon as possible."
- Les McKeown, Founder and CEO, Predictable Success

"This isn’t about us getting bigger, faster. This is about us becoming better, faster"

- Mickey Drexler, then CEO, Gap, Inc.

The 3 Key Challenges in Whitewater


Getting out of Treadmill is a race against time. The longer you stay in there, the more your entire organization will become comfortable with being over-processed, and you will fall in to The Big Rut - from which there is no recovery. To survive, you must get out of Treadmill as soon as possible.

Find out why


When organizations become over-systematized, challenge and protestation is discouraged, to the point where people either leave or stop trying to 'fight the system.' The organization as a result loses its internal challenge function, which in turn accelerates an irreversible descent into The Big Rut.

Find out how


Of everyone on the leadership team, Visionaries feel the pain of over-systemization in Treadmill more than the others. If / when it gets to the point where they believe they are not being heard, they will leave the organization (often rancorously), leaving it vision-less and accelerating it's decline.

Find out how and why 

Build The Team You Need to Get Out of Treadmill

A key element - in our view, the key element of achieving successful growth is in building the right team. Here at Predictable Success we've uncovered the precise combination of 4 specific leadership styles needed to move through each one of the 7 growth stages in the growth Lifecycle. Here's what you need in place in order to grow your organization out of Whitewater and in to growth stage 4 ('Predictable Success'):


The role of the Visionary is essential in Treadmill. They act as the 'canary in the coal mine' by calling out the over-systemization that is occurring. If they are not heard, they will often leave.

Learn more

The Operator


Operators become very frustrated during Treadmill and they believe the systems and processes are choking their ability to get things done. They often respond by 'going maverick'.

Learn more

The Processor


Because Processors install the systems needed for the organization to scale, they have a bias toward systemization, and are often the last to accept that the organization is in Treadmill.

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The Synergist


Synergists carry a lot of water during Treadmill, acting as go-betweens, especially between the very different world views of the Visionaries and the Processors.

Learn more


(HINT: You should be. The longer you stay there, the closer you get to losing the ability to self-diagnose, and falling in to The Big Rut, a stage of decline from which there is no return.

By far the fastest way to accelerate out of Treadmill is to enroll in The Predictable Success Acceleration Program - a proven, time-test, highly cost-effective Program that will not only accelerate your move out of Treadmill, it will be your constant guide an companion as you progress all the way back to Predictable Success:

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