In the final part of this series examining the seven key findings from Good to Great by Jim Collins we focus on the principle of the flywheel. But before we get to what the flywheel is, we need to refresh ourselves on the familiar fable of the tortoise and the hare. You know the one where the fast hare races a slow-moving tortoise but loses when he stops to take a nap. “Slow and steady wins the race” is often the main take-away from that story and it is a good way to think of the principle of the flywheel.
When Collins examined the companies that made the move from good to great he found that fast dramatic change or immediate major overhauls failed to move companies from good to great. Basically, there was never a miracle moment. The move to great was always slow and gradual.
And that is where the flywheel comes in. Imagine a large, heavy flywheel—a horizontal disc—that you want to move as fast as it can go. When you first begin to push the flywheel, it is so heavy that it takes great effort to even budge it. But you keep after it and it begins to move, oh, so slowly. As you keep pushing, you find that it begins to move a little faster and easier, and then, you reach the breakthrough point where the disc’s momentum keeps it moving. Now, it takes very little effort to make the flywheel move faster.
That is the principle of the flywheel. Moving from good to great requires very hard work early on, but steady persistence—like the tortoise—builds the momentum that leads to lasting breakthrough.
Here are four keys to leading your ministry like a tortoise, not a hare, and achieving lasting momentum to carry you to meaningful ministry wins.
- Don’t panic. Panic creates hares, not tortoises. It’s easy to see other kids ministries that are bigger or seem to be more active, or see flatlined or declining attendance in your ministry or church, panic, and feel the need to reach for a quick fix—a miracle moment. But when we panic, we don’t trust God and give Him space to work. Instead, remain calm, trust God, and continue to move forward in tortoise-like relentlessness.
- Work hard … on the right things. The principle of the flywheel requires that you work hard—really hard—to get the wheel moving. But it assumes one other critical detail—that you work hard on the right things. If you have spent time evaluating your ministry and developing lead goals and lag goals, you should have a pretty solid idea of where your hard work will pay off the most. Be wise with your time and energy, and that of your team as well. Pour your effort into what matters most.
- Be patient. And then be patient some more. Our lightning fast culture makes it harder than ever to be patient. Couple that with the burden we feel about reaching kids, their families, and our community for Christ and it is even harder. But we have to be patient. Sure, we need to feel the urgency of our mission, but our patient, prolonged work is what will reach kids and their families the best in the end. Take your time. Work hard. Keep the wheel moving. Celebrate the smaller victories.
Protect your momentum. Every bit of momentum you create is a win because of your team’s faithful hard work. Protect it! Don’t slow down or stop. Also, look out for others who might jeopardize your flywheel’s momentum. Watch mostly for people who are impatient and want to be hares more than tortoises and people who don’t share your ministry’s vision.
Brian Dembowczyk is the team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to LifeWay. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his family live in Murfreesboro, TN.