Predictable Success Chapter 4

Chapter 4: Whitewater 


This chapter begins with a call from Robyn, who runs a graphic design agency Sausalito. As of two years ago, her organization was in Fun – they were agile, flexible, never left a client hanging. Now, she says it’s as though they’ve walked into quicksand. She spends all her time in meetings, firefighting the latest round of problems. Welcome to Whitewater.

If an organization is in Fun and continues to grow, it will automatically hit Whitewater. Growth brings complexity, as people are added and lines of communication become less clear.

The solution is to add the right balance of systems and processes. But much like a frog who can’t sense the water heating up, senior management doesn’t see the initial bumps in the road for what they really are.

They think selling more will solve the problem, which only ends up exacerbating it. Growth stalls and profitability drops as the focus turns to firefighting.

Whitewater is the most difficult stage of all for an employee to work in, even more so than the Death Rattle. It’s stressful, dysfunctional, and there’s very little job satisfaction.

The solution? For some founder/owners, it is to cap the growth of their organization and stay in Fun. For others, it’s a matter of creating the right organizational structure, which we’ll examine further in Chapter 9.

But before we do that, let’s dive deeper into Whitewater.

The resources for Chapter Four can be accessed via the links below to click through the resources. They’ll help you to navigate through the many twists and turns of Whitewater and deliver you safely to the other side.

Chapter 4 Resources


David Allen is the author of "Getting Things Done" (GTD), the productivity system that has revolutionized how thousands of people think about productivity, business, and life in general.

As you would expect, David's advice to leaders and managers is of the very highest quality - he has a way of seeing (and acutely communicating) business, organizational and life - lessons.

In this interview with Les, David discusses the history, growth and current challenges he faced with his company, DavidCo.. -


It wasn’t long ago that Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz was the poster child for Visionary’s the world over.

In growing a small coffee company from 11 stores to a global brand of more than 1000 stores world-wide, Schultz displayed the ultimate trait of a Visionary; to see something which was not there before.

This is a great tour through the early days of growth up to the period the company was in Predictable Success.

Click here to buy the book.

It is exactly because Schultz didn’t manage to institutionalize his V-ness that Starbucks fell from its height and is now struggling to get back to Predictable Success (despite what he claims in his latest book Onward).

That being said this is still a great read and gives a good insight into the mind of a true Visionary. 


In his early days Warren Buffett was a Processor through and through. You don’t get a reputation as the world’s greatest investor without the attention to detail and process that a Processor naturally possesses.

As the activity of Berkshire Hathway evolved from purely buying stock to buying complete companies, Buffett too underwent an evolution from a Processor to a Synergist leading a full blown operating company.

This book, by Roger Lowenstein, outlines that journey and provides some great insight into the mind of one of America’s greatest business leaders. Well worth the read.

Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist

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