The Unstoppable Flywheel Force of Doing the “Next Right Thing”

When building great companies, I firmly believe in pursuing excellence with tenacity. But excellence isn’t just about the big stuff; it can be even more about the compounding effect of the little things. When you focus employees and teams on the value of doing the “next right thing” in every action they take, the accumulated results can become staggering achievements. 

I like to reflect on one of my favorite quotes, which adorned the doorway wall of a restaurant where I worked during college. Alongside a picture of a striped zebra, it says, “To be good is not enough when you dream of being great.” It’s an inspiration that reminds me you can always be better when you put your mind to it. 

Underscoring this quote are the principles of Jim Collins’ Flywheel Concept from his seminal book, “Good to Great.” Here, he articulates how good-to-great transformations never happen in one fell swoop. There is no single defining action, no grand program and no miracle break. Instead, success comes from a series of actions across teams aligned to a common goal, all doing the “next right thing” relentlessly. 

Listen to how this leadership concept has resulted in rapid success and accelerating momentum for ControlUp:

Breaking Through by Leading with Purpose

Applying this concept is like a giant flywheel that eventually breaks through and flies forward. Suddenly, the company sees the result of all the great work done earlier with relentless persistence. To build the employee alignment and culture that can propel your organization to unprecedented success, I suggest taking the following steps: 

  1. Enhance decision-making through employee feedback. Employee feedback is invaluable in the decision-making process, offering leaders ground-level insights crucial for determining the “next right thing.” An open communication channel boosts morale and is essential in spinning the flywheel—every insight and subsequent action adds momentum, making subsequent decisions easier and more impactful.
  2. Foster a learning culture for continuous improvement. A robust learning culture is pivotal for any organization transitioning from good to great. According to the Association for Talent Development, companies with strong learning cultures see significantly higher engagement and retention rates. This environment nurtures the flywheel effect by continuously improving skills and competencies, which, in turn, drives innovation and efficiency. Each learning opportunity employees seize adds weight to the flywheel, accelerating the organization’s journey toward greatness.
  3. Align actions with strategic goals. Aligning every action with the organization’s strategic goals ensures that each step is purposeful and impactful. Deloitte insights indicate that such alignment can boost worker productivity by up to 22%. This strategic congruence is the core of Collins’ flywheel concept—where consistency in actions and efforts builds up momentum that eventually leads to a breakthrough, transforming the good into great. Leaders must ensure that their decisions not only respond to immediate needs but also contribute to this larger, self-sustaining cycle of success.
  4. Lead with relentless persistence. Jim Collins’ flywheel concept illustrates how repeated, consistent effort in the right direction builds momentum that can lead an organization from mediocrity to excellence. This is not about one-off wins but rather a series of interconnected actions that collectively move the organization forward. Each action, each decision to do the “next right thing,” no matter how small, spins the flywheel a little faster and a little more smoothly, compounding the gains and solidifying the path from good to great.

The journey from a good organization to a great one is complex and challenging, but immensely rewarding. I’ve found that by listening to employees, cultivating a learning culture, and ensuring strategic alignment, I can not only make isolated good decisions; I can methodically add to the momentum of our organizational flywheel. By doing the “next right thing” together, ControlUp is destined for greatness. I truly appreciate the passion of our entire team, partners, and customers as we get there together. 

About the author

Jed Ayres

Jed Ayres is widely recognized for the transformational impact he is making on the end user computing industry and joined ControlUp as CEO in August 2023.

Ayres has more than 20 years of technology experience and has a wide range of industry experience across workspace management, virtualization and mobility. Prior to joining ControlUp, he was the CEO at IGEL where he drove the company’s successful pivot from a hardware-centric to a software-first company and was instrumental in its acquisition by TA Associates. Before that, he was the SVP of Worldwide Marketing for AppSense, where he helped the company rebrand and achieve significant growth prior to being acquired by Thoma Bravo to be integrated into Ivanti. Ayres was also CMO at MCPc, a $300m+ Solutions Provider in Cleveland that achieved rapid and sustained growth and was acquired by Logicalis. Before McPc, he spent six years as SVP of Partner Management and Marketing at national solution provider MTM Technologies.

He has also held a number of advisory board positions, including Citrix Platinum Council, VMware Global Partner Advisory Board, and the Cisco Marketing Council. Ayres holds a BS in Business Administration from Sonoma State University and an MBA from San Francisco State University. An avid swimmer biker, and runner, Ayres successfully completed six full Ironman races and several ultramarathons. He resides in Marin, California.