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Creating a Sense of Urgency–Leadership Urgency

publication date: Oct 13, 2012
author/source: Gary Cohen

Creating a Sense of Urgency–Leadership Urgency


Sense of UrgencySense of urgency declines as organizations grow


A sense of urgency is often lost as an organization comes to scale. The more the bureaucracy grows, the harder it is for the organization to keep moving forward fast. A syrupy molasses coats the gears.


As a leader, you wake up every morning in fighting shape. You visualize your team winning–as clearly as a 3D, HD action/adventure movie. By the second meeting of the day, however, you’re worried that the heroic adventure you visualized earlier might turn out to be a box-office flop. Customers are having real issues, and they’re being treated “according to the book”–which means insensitively and impersonally. New technology that is about to revolutionize your industry is not getting implemented fast enough because of the sign-offs required–while the competition is about to go live and take part of your market share.


Where did the sense of urgency go, and how can you get it back?


To get to scale, you believed that everything needed to by systematized. You preached the system and its efficiency. And the system helped get you this far (while it was new and interesting), but now the system feels too big and unwieldy. It feels slow and old.


Your organization needs to regain the sense of urgency that you still feel, but how?


1. Don’t start passing out blame. That might help you feel less responsible for the organization’s inertia, but it won’t inspire a sense of urgency.


2. Don’t invest further trust in the system or in the appeal of efficiency. People don’t feel passionately about systems or efficiency for very long.


3. Do provide a vision that is sufficiently big and inspiring to arouse the passion of your coworkers. They must believe in this vision enough to take personal and professional risks. They must be able to see how it will reward them. They must see themselves in a 3d, HD heroic adventure.


4. Do show how your organization’s values are critical to this vision. Enron moved at lightening speed because it had an exciting vision, but its values were suspect, to say the least.


5. Do hold your coworkers accountable. Paint the consequences of failure to perform in such a manner that it provides enough incentive for your people to not get overly comfortable in their role, or position.


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