Predictable Success Chapter 7

Chapter 7: The Big Rut


As this chapter begins, we arrive at the facilities of a candy manufacturer in a small northern England town. Over the course of many decades, this nationally-loved business had shrunk, decreasing its product offerings gradually down to a mere two, and even those weren’t available consistently.

At the recommendation of James, the company’s financial advisor, a meeting was arranged with the company’s three sibling leaders. Despite the inviting aroma of chocolate in the air, the reception they provided was anything but warm.

Each attempt to examine their company’s current situation was quickly rebuffed, till finally they were asked why they arranged a meeting in the first place. The sister replied that “Every business gets itself into a little rut from time to time…” She said they wanted to speak with someone with an outside perspective to see if they were still doing the right things. Without fully answering a single question, they concluded they were.

The Big Rut is the sixth and penultimate stage in any organization’s development. Organizations fall into it as a result of staying in Treadmill too long.

As creative, entrepreneurial individuals become frustrated and leave, the organization loses its ability to be innovative/take risks. Compliance and consistency are rewarded while initiative is discouraged. Decision-making becomes so cumbersome, that people avoid pursuing issues that would require management’s involvement.

The organization eventually becomes a mirror-image of the way it was in Fun. Rather than focusing externally on the customer’s needs to the detriment of internal systems, the organization turns its attention inward and customers are viewed as an inconvenience at best. Instead of being frustrated with the direction the company is headed, as senior leaders are during Treadmill, they become complacent – even comfortable.

It’s very rare that an organization can get out of The Big Rut. If you’re here, it’s likely already too late! That’s why we won’t be providing you with any resources for this chapter.*

(*Editor’s Note: Use the links below to navigate through the tools for Chapter 7.)

Chapter 7 Resources

Is Your Business Falling Into The Big Rut?

The Big Rut is insidious, and one of its hallmarks is that the organization has lost its ability to self-diagnose. The articles below offer a closer look at some of the major warning signs that one should watch out for.

Silent killers that lure leaders into complacency

Senior leaders who stifle innovation

Actively angering customers

Loss of growth and, soon, profitability

The Big Rut Case Study: General Motors

General Motors is a textbook example of the dangers of a prolonged stay in the Treadmill stage.

In these three articles, we take a closer look at how they got where they are today:

GM’s Cobalt Crisis

How a GM-Like Crisis Could Happen to You

Five Words That Sealed GM’s Fate

In this video, Les McKeown shares additional insights on GM, including a key sign that they are in The Big Rut.

Insert Video

The Big Rut Case Study: Microsoft

Microsoft is another classic example of a corporation that’s in The Big Rut. In this video, Les McKeown examines whether Microsoft’s situation can be reversed.

Here are some of the ways Microsoft has tried (and failed) to pull itself out of The Big Rut:

Using the innovation of its Xbox Division

Emulating their star competitor


In this memoir, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates offers a behind-the-scenes look at the battles he waged with Congress, two Presidents, and a massive Pentagon bureaucracy.

Discover how The Big Rut impacted the Iraq and Afghanistan wars – as well as other key defense decisions – in this remarkably candid book.

Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War by Robert M Gates


Curious about who else is nearing/already in The Big Rut? In these articles, we’ll take a closer look at other big-name organizations and the valuable lessons they have to teach us about this treacherous stage.

Yahoo’s Descent

Google’s Trajectory

The Goldman Sachs Contagion


If an organization is in Treadmill, what can its leaders do to prevent it from being pulled into The Big Rut?

In this Huffington Post article, Les McKeown shares three specific steps that should be taken:

Bring your business back from the brink

History has repeatedly shown us the value of innovation. Here’s why your organization should keep this lesson in mind:

Always be Innovating

If you’re not sure what your next strategy should be, here’s a good place to start:

Where to go from here

Looking for an objective assessment of your business? Turn to the right source:

Get the answers you need

Success message!
Warning message!
Error message!