Turning the Flywheel: A review by Bob Morris

Turning the Flywheel: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great
Jim Collins
HarperCollins (2019)

How to generate and then sustain momentum of your organization’s flywheel

Over the years, I have read and reviewed all of Jim Collins’ books and interviewed him three times, including one joined by Morten Hansen who had done much of the research for Good to Great and co-authored Great by Choice.

According to Collins, “No matter what your walk of life, no matter how big or small your enterprise, no matter whether it’s for-profit or nonprofit, no matter whether you’re CEO or a unit leader, the question stands. How does your flywheel turn?” More specifically, “The Flywheel effect is a concept developed in the book Good to Great. No matter how dramatic the end result, good-to-great transformations never happen in one fell swoop. In building a great company or social sector enterprise, there is no single defining action, no grand program, no one killer innovation, no solitary lucky break, no miracle moment. Rather, the process resembles relentlessly pushing a giant, heavy flywheel, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough, and beyond.”

This brief but substantial monograph serves several important purposes. Here are two. It offers the single best introduction to Collins’ most important insights that I have as yet encountered.  Also, it offers practical as well as precise advice to those who ask these two questions:

“How can I improve from good to great?”
“How can I help my organization improve from good to great?”

Pay special attention to the Appendix: The Flywheel Within a Framework. Keep in mind that, with all due respect to the importance of the flywheel, its impact alone does not make an organization great. “The flywheel fits within a framework of principles we uncovered through more than a quarter-century of research into the question of what makes a great company tick.” Collins then examines the principles within a four-stage framework: Disciplined People, Disciplined Thought, Disciplined Action, and Building to Last.

The framework he recommends is eminently sound and will help many executives to lead their organization to greatness. However, Jim Collins offers an important head’s up: “The moment you think of yourself as great, your slide toward mediocrity will have already begun.”

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Jim Collins is a student and teacher of what makes great companies tick, and a Socratic advisor to leaders in the business and social sectors.  Having invested more than a quarter century in rigorous research, he has authored or coauthored six books that have sold in total more than 10 million copies worldwide. They include Good to Great, the #1 bestseller, which examines why some companies make the leap to superior results but most don’t, along with its companion work Good to Great and the Social Sectors; the enduring classic Built to Last, which explores how some leaders build companies that remain visionary for generations; How the Mighty Fall, which delves into how once-great companies can self-destruct; and Great by Choice, which is about thriving in chaos—why some do, and others don’t. To learn more about him and his brilliant work, please click here..




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