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Turning the Flywheel: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great Paperback – 28 Feb 2019
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About the Author
Jim Collins is a student of companies - great ones, good ones, weak ones, failed ones - from young start-ups to venerable sesquicentenarians. The author of the national bestseller Good to Great and co-author of Built to Last, he serves as a teacher to leaders throughout the corporate and social sectors. His most recent book is Great by Choice, a look at why some companies thrive in uncertain times. His work has been featured in Fortune, Business Week, The Economist, USA Today, and Harvard Business Review. You can find more information about Jim and his work at his e-teaching site, www.jimcollins.com.
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I love lots of Jim Collins' other works, but I'm not sure why this needed to be packaged like this. It's a big, important idea, but pretty simple to explain and might have lent itself better to a free PDF format that Collins' fans could download or indeed, incorporated into a revised and updated version of Good to Great.
Sorry, but this is a disappointing work and I'd recommend buying Good to Great or How The Mighty Fall, as better alternative examples of this important writer.
However, it does not really elaborate much more than the book. i had hoped for more about steps for discovering the elements of the flywheel (and what how to decide what not is included), but Jim still leave it closer to a dark art than a science.
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• “When you have disciplined people, you don’t need hierarchy.
• When you have disciplined thought, you don’t need bureaucracy.
• When you have disciplined action, you don’t need excessive controls.
• When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you create a powerful mixture that correlates with great performance.”
“Turning the Flywheel” is the latest gem from over 25 years of research from Jim Collins (just 29 pages plus eight pages of helpful summaries in the appendix). The subtitle describes this must-read content: “Why Some Companies Build Momentum and Others Don’t.”
So think about this: You’ve written five powerful business books between 1994 and 2011 (plus a lesser known book in 1992). You’ve sold over 10 million copies worldwide. The assignment in 2019: boil it all down and deliver the key thought—the Big Idea—of what leaders and managers are missing. Pick from this list:
• Level 5 Leadership
• Genius of the And
• Confront the Brutal Facts
• The Hedgehog Concept
• The Flywheel
• 20 Mile March
• Fire Bullets, Then Cannonballs
• Productive Paranoia
• Clock Building, Not Time Telling
• Preserve the Core/Stimulate Progress
• Return on Luck
• Superior Results
• Distinctive Impact
• Lasting Endurance
What one concept would you pick—that rises above everything else—and is your critical message for organizations today? Jim Collins picked the flywheel.
I’ve reviewed Collins’ books over the years and found leadership wisdom in every one—but even if you’re already a Jim Collins zealot—“Turning the Flywheel” will re-energize you. Here’s why: “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?”
What’s a flywheel? Read Chapter 8 of “Good to Great,” “The Flywheel and the Doom Loop,” or read the nine-line summary in the appendix of “Turning the Flywheel,” including this: “…the process resembles relentlessly pushing a giant, heavy flywheel, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough, and beyond.” (By the way, Collins includes more than a dozen succinct summaries of his amazing body of work in just eight pages. Perfect snippets for your next 14 weekly staff meetings!)
THE BIG IDEA: “To maximize the flywheel you need to understand how your specific flywheel turns.”
Collins illustrates the uniqueness of the flywheel approach with flywheel diagrams from seven companies and nonprofits, including Ware Elementary School, located on the Fort Riley army base in Kansas. Deb Gustafson, the principal, first read the “Good to Great and the Social Sectors” monograph and was absolutely giddy! “When I got to the part about turning the flywheel, I was bouncing up and down out of my seat,” she said.
And note this: Jeff Bezos “…considered Amazon’s application of the flywheel concept ‘the secret sauce.’” But this caution: you need to understand how your organization’s specific flywheel turns—and the sequence of the components. Collins notes seven key steps for capturing your unique flywheel approach—plus this warning: don’t feature more than four to six components.
He includes flywheel diagrams from Amazon, Vanguard, Intel, Giro, Ware Elementary School, Ojai Music Festival, and the Cleveland Clinic. (Wow—Collins must have a love affair with Cleveland. In his first monograph, he highlights “Greatness at the Cleveland Orchestra”—one of my favorite examples for nonprofits.)
He packs all of this—and more—into just 29 pages, plus the appendix. But this is all you’re getting in this review, otherwise you wouldn’t need to buy the book. But I’ll close with this motivational pop quiz:
STAFF MEETING POP QUIZ:
1) If you’re a millennial and you’ve read a book by Jim Collins, please stand. I have a Starbucks card for you.
2) What books/insights by Jim Collins have made the greatest impact on our department or organization?
3) If you have a marked-up/heavily-read copy of any book by Jim Collins, please stand: I have a Starbucks card for you.
4) If you have NOT read a book by Jim Collins, but would volunteer to read and review “Turning the Flywheel” at our next staff meeting, please stand. I have a Chick-fil-A gift card for you!
5) True or False? Using the flywheel concept at Ware Elementary School, the principal and her team saw satisfactory reading levels of just 35% mushroom to 99% in just seven years. (Answer: True!)
Collins concludes on page 37 in the appendix: “Finally, I caution against ever believing that your organization has achieved ultimate greatness. Good to great is never done.”
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."
* * *
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 visit jimcollinsdotcom.