The toughest of the 8-Steps to Leading Change and the most often overlooked is the process of increasing the urgency in an organization for the need for change. Urgency must be core to a successful organization and it must be sustained over time. It is critical to set the stage for making a challenging leap into some new direction. Urgency is becoming increasingly important because change is shifting from episodic to continuous. That means there is a constant need for an urgent focus on what is important.
True urgency focuses on critical issues. It is driven by the deep determination to win, not anxiety about losing.
Many people confuse it with false urgency. This misguided sense of urgency does have energized action, but it has a frantic aspect to it with people driven by anxiety and fear. This dysfunctional orientation prevents people from exploiting opportunities and addressing real issues.
The worst thing for an organization is to step into complacency. In a fast moving and changing world, a sleepy or steadfast contentment with the status quo can create disaster – literally.
A big reason that a true sense of urgency is rare is that it’s not a natural state of affairs. It has to be created and recreated. In organizations that have survived for a significant period of time, complacency is more likely the norm. Even in organizations that are clearly experiencing serious problems, devastating problems, business-as-usual can survive. Or it can be replaced by hundreds of anxiety filled, unproductive activities that are mistaken for a real sense of urgency. And in organizations that handle episodic change well, with a big initiative every five years or so, you can still find a poor capacity to deal with continuous change because urgency tends to collapse after a few successes.
This last point is exceptionally important because we are moving from episodic to continuous change. With this shift, urgency will move from being an...