Why do we need a Sense of Urgency?

In an interview with Harvard Business Review, John Kotter answers that question:

“The fundamental reason we need urgency is because the rate of change is going up. Everybody says that and very few people believe it.

“If you look at the data, though, all the way from number of patents filed, M&A activity, all kinds of global activity– it’s going up like that.

“It’s not even linear. And the faster the world moves, the faster you need to change.”

In his book, “A Sense of Urgency,” Kotter says that a true Sense of Urgency is rare; mainly because “it is not the natural state of affairs. It has to be created and recreated.”

Kotter offered four ways to maintain a sense of urgency:

  1. Bring the outside in: help people see The Big Picture, especially opportunities and threats
  2. Behave with urgency:  drive decisions with confidence and act on them quickly
  3. Find opportunity in crises: a well-leveraged crisis can be a valuable tool to break through complacency.
  4. Deal with the Naysayers: distract them with an assignment where they can add value out of harm’s way, expose their behavior for what it is so that natural forces will reduce it, or move them out of the organization.

Kotter also has a warning about the danger of success. “If success goes up, urgency goes down. People think, we worked hard, we won, we’re doing great. And complacency sets in.”

Thanks for exploring this GEO Leadership Action. 

What are your key Takeaways?

I’ll look forward to your comments.

Leland Russell
Founder / CEO
GEO Group Strategic Services