Have you ever pushed others on a merry-go-round? That first shove takes a great deal of effort and seems to make hardly any progress in getting it spinning. The next few shoves are similar as you fight inertia. As the merry-go-round begins to spin slowly, then faster and faster, you eventually reach a point where the momentum of the merry-go-round starts working in your favor. Suddenly you can maintain the greater speed with relatively little effort. You can even take a step back and let it take a few turns on its own before giving it an extra push.
There is a principle in management, popularized by Jim Collins, called the flywheel effect. The basic idea of the flywheel effect is to find that which sets your team apart and then focus repeated efforts in doing it better. As you consistently do this, over time, momentum is built. This concept is crucial to understand because people commonly think that success is built on one or two big ideas which achieve big wins. But there isn’t one big thing. Jim Collins puts it this way:
No matter how dramatic the end result, the good-to-great transformations never happened in one fell swoop. There was no single defining action, no solitary lucky break, no wrenching revolution. Good to great comes about by a cumulative process-step by step, action by action, decision by decision, turn by turn of the flywheel-that adds up to sustained and spectacular results.
Whether a business, a non-profit or a church, whenever people seek to constantly improve whatever it is they are doing, they have a chance to achieve exceptional results. It is not the initial efforts that yields fruit but a process that involves tenacity and perseverance. Momentum does not generate itself; it is the outcome of consistent hard work. The better we do…the better we do. Scripture certainly directs us in .
But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” (2 Chronicles 15:7)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, (Hebrews 12:1)
What Stops the Flywheel?
Looking for Overnight Success
Momentum is never built when teams seek a single defining action, the one killer innovation, or the miracle moment that would allow them to skip the arduous buildup stage and jump right to breakthrough. Those who look for overnight success will start the flywheel and then when there are no immediate results, they change course. The new direction, which is even less effective, results in frustration.
Lack of Clear Objectives
When there are not a clear set of objectives teams will be unable to achieve the flywheel effect. When people are unclear as to what defines success, they push themselves in different directions at the same time. When there is no “true north” direction, the objective changes and resources are re-assigned and the flywheel slows.
When problems or obstacles are encountered, instead of a quiet and deliberate process of figuring out what needs to be done and then simply doing it, teams may launch new programs or ideas, instead. Often these ideas are promoted with great fanfare aimed at getting people motivated and enthused—only to see the programs fail to produce sustained results.
Once your objectives are clear, set up your strategy to accomplish those objectives. Simplify your team or organizational structure. There is no advantage to being complicated. Once that is in place, the flywheel involves these essential steps done over and over:
Gather team feedback regarding how your strategy is reaching your objectives.
Determine improvements based on feedback.
Communicate these improvements clearly.
Carry them out.
Repeat steps 1-4 at a scheduled time.
This is not easy at first; over time the experience of momentum will increase, and the reward of the effort will be felt. As even the Bible reminds:
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
Are you called to multiply disciples, contact Anthony at email@example.com.
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