How Change Does Happen

Now picture a huge, heavy flywheel. It’s a massive, metal disk mounted horizontally on an axle. It’s about 100 feet in diameter, 10 feet thick, and it weighs about 25 tons. That flywheel is your company. Your job is to get that flywheel to move as fast as possible, because momentum — mass times velocity — is what will generate superior economic results over time.

Right now, the flywheel is at a standstill. To get it moving, you make a tremendous effort. You push with all of your might, and finally, you get the flywheel to inch forward. After two or three days of sustained effort, you get the flywheel to complete one entire turn. You keep pushing, and the flywheel begins to move a bit faster. It takes a lot of work, but at last the flywheel makes a second rotation. You keep pushing steadily. It makes three turns, four turns, five, six. With each turn, it moves faster, and then — at some point, you can’t say exactly when — you break through. The momentum of the heavy wheel kicks in your favor. It spins faster and faster, with its own weight propelling it. You aren’t pushing any harder, but the flywheel is accelerating, its momentum building, its speed increasing.

This is the Flywheel Effect. It’s what it feels like when you’re inside a company that makes the transition from good to great. Take Kroger, for example. How do you get a company with more than 50,000 people to embrace a new strategy that will eventually change every aspect of every grocery store? You don’t. At least not with one big change program.

Instead, you put your shoulder to the flywheel. That’s what Jim Herring, the leader who initiated the transformation of Kroger, told us. He stayed away from change programs and motivational stunts. He and his team began turning the flywheel gradually, consistently — building tangible evidence that their plans made sense and would deliver results.

“We presented what we were doing in such a way that people saw our accomplishments,” Herring says. “We tried to bring our plans to successful conclusions step by step, so that the mass of people would gain confidence from the successes, not just the words.”

– Jim Collins author of ‘Good to Great’

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