🎡 Flywheel Effect

A flywheel is a system that will generate dynamic momentum through a logical sequence of actions over a long period.

Daniel Jarjoura
Daniel Jarjoura

Let's talk about the Flywheel Effect.

💡
A flywheel is a system that will generate dynamic momentum through a logical sequence of actions over a long period.

🤔 Why you should care about it

"Big things happen because you do a bunch of little things supremely well that compound over time." - Jim Collins, American researcher and author.

While the Flywheel Effect is initially a concept explaining compounding business models, like Amazon, you can use it for any undertaking, including improving your candidates' pipeline or your ability to produce high-quality software.

Example of a flywheel to improve inbound candidates pipeline.

😫 Problem(s)

Significant results don't happen overnight —> leaders who launch new initiatives with great fanfare often realise that great results always take longer than expected.

New managers often have "pivotitis" —> when they don't see immediate results, some leaders pivot from one initiative to the other, mistaking a lack of patience for agility.

All projects are not always aligned towards one single goal —> when launching new initiatives, leaders don't necessarily link them to each other to contribute to the organisation's goal.

😃 Solution(s)

Developed by Jim Collins in his book Good to Great, the Flywheel Effect explains how one can achieve great results through the compounding addition of small actions that are linked together logically (" If-Then"). For example: If Action A goes well, Then Action B will eventually happen, Then Action C will also happen, Then Action D will fuel Action A to go even better, and so on.

You can use flywheels for business models, organisational changes, skills improvement, continuous integration, software testing, etc.

💡 Key Concepts

Flywheel effect (physics) —> the continuation of oscillations in an oscillator circuit after removing the control stimulus.

Compounding —> the principle of getting huge rewards from a series of small actions repeated over time.

Momentum —> the positive motion (growth) of a business, project or idea.

😡 Detractors

"Flywheels are not exponentials. If you keep doing the same actions, you will never get exponential results." —> The flywheel concept, as explained by Jim Collins, mixes the concept of momentum and compounding effects. Both are true only if your trigger action will generate exponential results over time.

"Not all project have self-reinforcing mechanics." —> This is also true. The flywheel concept does not apply to all projects, but flywheel initiatives will generate the best results in the future.

📚 Top book

Good To Great - Jim Collins

📝 Top content

🎧 Jim Collins: Keeping the Flywheel in Motion (02:23:29) - The Knowledge Project --> a lengthy interview of Jim Collins, packed with incredible insights and detailed examples.

📝 The Management Flywheel - Camille Fournier --> how to apply the flywheel concept to engineering management (from the author of The Manager's Path).

📝 Stop Calling Everything a Flywheel - Francisco Souza Homem de Mello --> a very articulate critic of the flywheel concept, especially the shaky physics metaphor.

📝 The Flywheel of Testing - Adam Tuttle --> how to use the "write & refactor" flywheel to improve code quality.


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Daniel Jarjoura

Helping CTOs scale their team and grow as leaders | Founder @ The Unicorn CTO | Solopreneur