What Does It Mean to Have a Sense of Urgency?

05/30/2013

What Does It Mean to Have a Sense of Urgency?

“Sense of urgency” is a term that is thrown around a lot in the business world today.  And for good reason – the world around us is constantly changing, and we need to react right now!  Trinity has made a sense of urgency a priority, and from what I’ve learned, most companies probably should.

I recently read  A Sense of Urgency, written by John P. Kotter, and I loved it.  Professor Kotter very clearly defines the 3 stages of urgency and explains the importance of a true sense of urgency.  I thought I would share his key points in the hopes that you are sparked to put these ideas into place within your own organization.

The first stage of urgency Professor Kotter explains is one of complacency, defined as “a feeling of contentment or self satisfaction, especially when coupled with an unawareness of danger or trouble.”  When a person, department, or company is in a state of complacency, the general feeling is complete contentedness with the status quo.  People tend to think: “I know what to do and I do it. If there is a problem, it’s not mine.”  Their behavior is unchanging, opportunities and hazards are equally ignored, and their focus is purely internal.  The consequences? The world around you moves on while you stay the same.  Competitors will change and innovate to meet your customer’s demands, because for the complacent, change either doesn’t happen fast enough or it doesn’t happen at all.

The second stage of urgency is a false sense of urgency.  This is flurry of energy and activity built out of failures.  Often, the failures are the result of complacency, leading management to put intense pressure on their team to perform exceedingly well and unrealistically fast.  Someone in this stage is frantic, stressed, anxious, frustrated, and exhausted.  There is very high activity with very low productivity.  For these people, the problems still lie somewhere else, but now they will experience very defensive reactions.  They will hold fast to what is being done right and will partake in finger-pointing attacks on others.  The consequences of this are equally destructive to complacency.  The unproductive activity and pressure is fueled by a team full of anxiety and anger.  There are many wasted hours and lost opportunities.

The ideal stage is a true sense of urgency.  This is driven by a belief that “the world contains great opportunities and hazards” and “a gut-level determination to move, and win, now!”  There are four tactics laid out in the book that you can use to obtain a true sense of urgency in your organization, but I’m just going to touch on the one that I think is the easiest to implement right now. We hear it all the time – your attitudes, feelings, and actions are contagious.  The one thing you can do that will start a ripple effect of urgency is to behave with urgency every day.

In order to have a true sense of urgency and not slip into complacency, it’s important to remember that past successes tell us nothing about the future.  Often, sports imitate life, and you don’t have to look too far to see prior success not resulting in success the following year… just look at the Super Bowl winners from 2008-2012.

Year WonTeamFollowing Year’s Result
2012GiantsMissed playoffs
2011PackersLost opening round playoffs
2010SaintsLost opening round playoffs
2009SteelersMissed playoffs
2008GiantsLost opening round playoffs

Two didn’t qualify for the playoffs at all, and the three that did had a combined 0-3 record.  I’m sure that complacency and the thought of “we did it this way last year, it’ll work again this year!” contributed to why these teams saw the results they did. Winning today does not guarantee success tomorrow.  We all have to work at it; we have to be better today than yesterday.  Every day is an opportunity for you to win,  so we must choose to do so and then make sure victory happens.

So where is your sense of urgency?  Where is your department or your company?  Where are your competitors, your customers, your stakeholders?  We hope you will notice a difference when you call Trinity. Please do not hesitate to contact our team, as we want to show off our improved sense of urgency!