Book Review: Turning the Flywheel

Have you ever found yourself or your company in a position where it seems that you are investing a ton of time and effort into a particular project and seeing little or no results? Maybe it’s growing sales, or building better work processes, or possibly a better golf stroke. Lots of effort and little gain.

Or maybe the opposite. Have you ever found yourself in a position where you are investing very little effort into something and experiencing greater than expected results? Probably not often enough. Both of these scenarios are examples of the “Flywheel Effect” and are described beautifully in best-selling author Jim Collins latest publication, Turning the Flywheel. 

One of my favorite contemporary business authors, Collins’ publications include Good to Great, followed by How the Mighty Fall, and Great by Choice, and I enjoyed them all. A former Stanford Business School professor, he currently operates a management laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.

Collins describes Turning the Flywheel as a “monograph” to accompany Good to Great. It is short (only 40 pages), and to the point with a number of rich examples of how a flywheel works, how to re-start a stalled flywheel, and how to expand an efficiently running flywheel.

The idea of the flywheel came to the author when he was writing Good to Great. While interviewing the leaders of each “Great” company, Collins discovered in each case there was no single defining moment that triggered each company to move from good to great. Rather, the business leaders described it was like turning a giant, heavy flywheel. Pushing with great effort and seeing little progress until they experienced some momentum, then more momentum, greater speed, and finally a breakthrough. The flywheel was then flying forward with almost unstoppable momentum.

How can you experience the “flywheel effect” in your business? Collins suggests it starts with understanding the basic architecture of your business and looking for opportunities for improvement whether it’s sales, operations, or talent retention. The book then walks the reader thru a step-by-step approach to building your own version of the flywheel.

I enjoyed reading Jim Collin’s latest writing. I am now busy working on my own flywheel.