Noun: A heavy revolving wheel in a machine that is used to increase the machine’s momentum and thereby provide greater stability or a reserve of available power.   


As I was reading Jim Collins’s work, Good to Great and the Social Sectors, I was struck by the power of this analogy to building a great organization. His states:

In building a great organization, there is no single defining action, no grand program, no one killer innovation, no solitary lucky break, no miracle moment. Rather, our research showed that it feels like turning a heavy, giant flywheel. Pushing with great effort – days, weeks, and months of work, with almost imperceptible progress – you finally get the flywheel to inch forward...Each turn builds upon previous work, compounding your investment of effort…This is how you build greatness.  (p 23)

Wow! As I thought about the process and investment of effort in building great schools, many of his words resonated with the specific actions that are taken in developing a ‘great’ school. There are infinite initiatives, the latest tool, all aimed at creating a ‘great’ school. 

Yes, I realize that the term ‘great’ can and is interpreted a million and one ways, but I believe that a great school is one that takes the whole child into consideration and diligently works to cultivate the potential, interests, passions, and social and emotional aspects of every child. Yes, daunting and much like turning a flywheel, it takes ‘great effort…building upon previous work’ with the child. But the payoff is worth it and more that can be imagined.

What is the flywheel in the school? It is the intentional building of relationships, connecting with each other as colleagues, with the students as learners, and with the parents as partners. Without this ‘flywheel’ the ‘great’ school is only a dream, but as Collins says…’This is how you build greatness.