Is your sense of urgency working for or against you?

Due to the overextended and under-resourced nature of the nonprofit sector, it’s easy to look around your organization and misdiagnose your busy staff and hyperactive meeting schedule as having a sense of urgency. A Sense of Urgency author, John Kotter, argues otherwise.

Is your urgency true or false? Organizations that are truly inspiring transformative change don’t suffer from endless busy work; the employees have a sense of purpose, an emotional attachment to the aspirational goal and shed low-priority activities in pursuit of meaningful milestones that mark progress. The social sector is a breeding ground for these false diagnoses of urgency, and nonprofit leaders must root out busy work in favor of smarter, inspired progress toward game-changing goals.

What’s the single biggest error people make? Two years prior to publishing A Sense of Urgency, it occurred to Kotter how often he was being asked, “What is the single biggest error people make when they try to change?” More than 10 years of research, hundreds of interviews with managers and three books on the subject told him leaders did not create a high enough sense of urgency among enough people to set the stage for making a challenging leap into some new direction.

What managers had to say This observation inspired Kotter to test the idea and probe deeper by systematically asking managers a new set of questions. For example, “How high is the sense of urgency among relevant people around you?” And, “If it’s too low, what exactly are you doing to change this fact?”

Here are the interesting conclusions resulting from these questions:

1. At the beginning of an effort to create change, if a sense of urgency is not high enough and complacency is not low enough, everything else becomes so much more difficult.
2. Complacency is much more common than we might think and very often invisible to the people involved. Success easily produces complacency and it doesn’t have to be recent.
3. The opposite of urgency is not only complacency, but false or misguided urgency which is more insidious. False urgency is driven by anxiety, anger and frustration. It’s characterized by a frantic feeling.
4. Mistaking what you might call false urgency for real urgency is a huge problem today.
5. It is possible to recognize false urgency and complacency and transform them into a true sense of urgency. The book describes these strategies.
6. Urgency is becoming increasingly important because change is shifting from episodic to continuous. Continuous change requires sustaining urgency.

Visit www.KotterInternational.com for more information about the John Kotter and his best-selling books.

See also:

Buy-In: Saving Your Good Ideas From Getting Shot Down

The Three Laws of Performance

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