Turning the Transformation Flywheel

In his book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t, author Jim Collins introduces “The Flywheel Effect” at the center of what he calls the “inflection point” of how organizations transform from “good” to “great”. Essentially, after all his research, he says that the key to transformation of “good” organizations, businesses, teams, families, nations, etc. is to understand and execute the “flywheel”.

What is a flywheel?

“A heavy revolving wheel in a machine that is used to increase the machine’s momentum and thereby provide greater stability or a reserve of available power…”

Collins further explains the Flywheel Effect as a “powerful animating force…or noble purpose” that serves to “increase the organizational or business “momentum” toward positive transformation.

An example flywheel

For example a simple business “flywheel” could be illustrated like this one Collins illustrates:
As you see in this example, each component (or step) provides momentum that logically leads to the next component. Collins refers to this as a “virtuous cycle”. He also says, “…transformation doesn’t come from any single defining action, no grand program…no “lucky break”. Rather, it feels like turning a giant, heavy flywheel. Pushing with great effort, you get the flywheel to inch forward. You keep pushing, and with persistent effort, you get the flywheel to complete one turn…”

So, what are the components of your “flywheel”?

The hard work of leadership is identifying and creating the components that lead to positive transformation of an organization or team. Great leaders create the conditions to start the wheel turning, inspire others to join in the effort to get the flywheel to “inch forward” and keep at it until it begins to turn and build momentum.


Written by: Andrew McCoy

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