Home » Blog » Turning The Flywheel – June 2021 Book of The Month

By Jim Collins

Imagine your business is a flywheel made up of interdependent high-level outcomes … The wheel will only spin as fast and as powerfully as the slowest or weakest performing outcome. The faster and more powerful your wheel spins the greater the momentum it gathers. This is a little gem of a book; it is short and easy to read and will challenge you to look at your business from a perspective that will provide you with an outcome-based framework and some basic strategic insights that you may not otherwise have become aware of. 

The book builds on the aspects of business leadership set out in previous bestselling business books written by Jim Collins. ‘Good to Great’ being one, and possibly his most well-known was the book he co-authored with Jerry Porras called ‘Built To Last’ a wonderful book which I reviewed as my book of the month some 8 years ago.

The best way to summarise a business flywheel is with a visual illustration. Here the Flywheel that Jim Collins created with Jeff Bezos and the Amazon senior leadership team some years ago …

I love using one-page wheels and mind map illustrations of the component parts and activities of a business, to both strategically understand and to help my clients systemise their businesses.

The book ‘Turning The Flywheel’ the focus is on high level ‘business outcomes’ that need to happen, where one outcome naturally takes you to the next outcome. It captures the big picture outcomes that need to happen for your business to gain momentum and in the words of Jim Collins ‘grow from good to great!’.

In my work with clients I use the flywheel principles to identify and build wheels or flywheels for the interconnected component parts of a business and the interconnected core activities, which is not covered in this book.

Let’s look at another real-life ‘key business outcomes flywheel’ example that is illustrated in the book for ‘The Cleveland Clinic’:  

If we consider the above ‘Cleveland Clinic Flywheel’ as an example there are 6 connected high-level outcomes illustrated that collectively and sequentially will enable The Cleveland Clinic to progress towards their purposeful vision. Let us imagine that they assessed both subjectively and as objectively as possible the following hypothetical example scores out of 10:

  1. Get the right medical professionals – 8/10
  2. Cultivate a collaborative patient-centered culture – 8/10
  3. Work across specialities for best health outcomes – 4/10
  4. Attract patients from around the world – 8/10
  5. Fuel the resource engine – 7/10
  6. Invest in the best facilities, research and people – 7/10

If the above scores were established for this business, then whilst 5 of the businesses 6 strategic flywheel outcomes are a 7 or 8 out of 10, the outcome of ‘Work across specialities for best health outcomes’ is only a 4 out of 10 dragging the performance of the business outcomes as a whole down to a 4 out of 10. Your business flywheel can only turn at the speed and power of the lowest performing outcome. 

These flywheel illustrations are ‘big picture outcomes’, so do not included the component parts and activities that ensure these outcomes are met. However, having a clear understanding of your high-level outcomes and their interdependency as set up in this book is essential. 

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