Good To Great

Good To Great

We keep looking for a change in the wrong places, asking the incorrect questions, and making the incorrect assumptions. There’s a good tendency at fault Wall Street for the “instant results” method of change. But the companies that made the jump from good to great did so using Wall Street’s own tough metric of success: a continual step in their stock-market performance. Wall Street actually is yet another myth—an reason for not doing what does work. The data doesn’t lie.

Now picture an enormous, heavy flywheel. Its a massive steel disk mounted with an axle horizontally. It’s about 100 feet in diameter, 10 feet thick, and it weighs about 25 tons. That flywheel is your business. Your job is to get that flywheel to move as you can fast, because momentum—mass times speed—is what will generate superior economic results over time.

Right now, the flywheel reaches a standstill. To obtain it move, you make a tremendous effort. You push with all of your might, and finally you get the flywheel to inches forwards. After several days of sustained effort, you get the flywheel to complete one entire turn. You retain pushing, and the flywheel begins to move a little faster. It takes a great deal of work, but at last the flywheel makes another rotation. You keep pushing steadily.

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It makes three converts, four converts, five, six. With each convert, it goes faster, and some point then—at, you can’t say exactly when—you breaks through. The momentum of the heavy wheel kicks on your side. It spins faster and faster, using its own weight propelling it. You aren’t pressing any harder, but the flywheel is accelerating, its momentum building, its acceleration increasing.

This is the Flywheel Effect. It’s what it feels like when you’re in the company which makes the changeover from good to great. Take Kroger, for example. How will you get a company with more than 50, 000 visitors to accept 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 first choice who initiated the transformation of Kroger, told us. He stayed away from change programs and motivational stunts. He and his team started to turn the flywheel gradually, consistently—building tangible evidence that their plans made sense and would deliver results.