Rick Phelps

Synchronous Solutions

Getting from Point A to Point B requires we go through Point C. Let me explain.

Merry Go-RoundOne of my favorite business books is Good to Great, by Jim Collins. In chapter eight, Collins introduces “The Flywheel” concept. Flywheels are used to store energy and provide the inertia needed to get through hard times. When you get a flywheel spinning it is hard to stop it. Collin’s flywheel concept is about creating the focus and constancy in purpose required to significantly change the course of the business and enable it to preserver through the hard times.

My first introduction to a flywheel was as a kid with the playground merry-go-round.

As many kids as possible would pile on and then the biggest kids would start pushing, slowly at first, then gradually building momentum as they got the mass of metal and kids turning. Eventually they would have the merry-go-round spinning so fast it would start flinging kids off, breaking arms and teeth, while others were getting motion sickness and screaming to please stop! Ahhh, the good ole days!

The problem with the merry-go-round was how to stop the darn thing from spinning so those hurt and ill kids could get off. It wasn’t easy!

The playground merry-go-round is a lesson in inertia and non-linear effects. At first, all the efforts at pushing to get it spinning seem to be having little effect, then suddenly it starts getting easier and easier before it seemingly just takes off.

The issue Collins is addressing with his Flywheel analogy is management’s impatience and desire for immediate results. Unwilling to wait for the inertia to build up, managers decide “it’s not working,” and they change direction. Change initiatives. It’s like starting to push the merry-go-round clockwise, decide it’s too hard, and switch to counterclockwise. The business never gets to build the momentum necessary to get through the hard times.

We humans are linear thinkers. We believe the path from Point A to Point B is the linear path shown by the arrow in the diagram above on the left. We undertake the initiative to get to Point B and in time we arrive at Point C, in Diagram 2. We perceive “It’s not working,” so management becomes disillusioned and decides to try something else instead.

Diagram 1 and 2

The problem isn’t with the initiative, it’s with our understanding of the world. Few things in life are actually linear in nature. The compounding effect of efforts (or interest, in the case of money) takes time to realize. Getting the merry-go-round spinning is a non-linear process. The energy stored is mv 2, meaning the effect of pushing the merry-go-round on its energy is compounding.

The path to Point B is more likely depicted by the green line on Diagram 3 and 4:

Diagrams 3 and 4

At Point C we are the farthest away from our expectations, AND right at the cusp of rapid growth. At Point C you are exactly where you should be – halfway to Point B, from an effort perspective. It just doesn’t feel like it!

Research has shown people tend to greatly over-estimate what they can accomplish in the short-term, yet grossly under-estimate what can be accomplished in the long-term. This is why!

There are two damaging effects from quitting at Point C. The first is the obvious one – you don’t get to Point B. The second damaging effect is more insidious and more damaging in the long run. In trying, you “learned” that the initiative to get to Point B “doesn’t work.” Later, when seeking out ways to improve, you will hear the old hats state, “Oh yes, we tried that, it doesn’t work here.” And that very initiative that might be exactly what you need to propel you to the next level, simply doesn’t happen.

At this point you are one month into your 2024 Goals and Objectives (and New Year’s resolutions!). If you feel like you are not making progress, stick with it because you may be on the path to Point B via a journey first to Point C.

Of course, perhaps more likely, you were insane in your goal setting (see January’s article), and you really are not making any progress toward Point B after all. In that case, get smart and make a course correction NOW, while you have ample time to make 2024 the smashing success it should be!

At Synchronous Solutions we combine Logic and Science to make a difference in the countertop fabricating world. If you learned something from this article, give us a call – we love helping businesses to stop fighting physics! Much easier to harness it for the betterment of all!
Contact us at www.synchronoussolutions.com.