The key for attaining “Someday Dreams” Is called Urgency
Think how you can create that urgency, and turn
“Someday” into “Today

                                                                                                 –  Tal Gu

Have you have encountered one of the following situations, or one like it?
  • You stand at the deli counter of your favorite store needing only one or two items.  There are two clerks, and one is slowly and carefully rewrapping a piece of cheese that was recently cut, while the other is reviewing orders that have been phoned in.  You make eye contact with one and he nods, but then gives you the “wait a minute” signal, while he engages in a quick conversation with his colleague.  It would seem that there is no real urgency to get to you.

  • Monday a week ago you met with a member of your staff to review information that must be gathered for a meeting that will occur at the end of the month.  This past Friday you asked, “How are you doing getting that information we will need for the meeting on the 30th? You get an incredulous look and the response,  “I didn’t even start it, the meeting’s not for another two weeks!”  Obviously there’s no sense of urgency here

  • You spouse asks you on three different occasions if you would mind stopping by a local restaurant to pick-up a gift certificate for her to give to a friend for her birthday.  Each time you say, “Yep, I’ll try to get that done today.  When she finally says, “Never mind about the gift card, her birthday was yesterday!” you ignore the reality, drive to the restaurant and pick it up.  Urgency had nothing to do with this, it’s called guilt (The guilty party is writing this.)

What has happened to the idea of urgency?  There was a time when change was episodic; it came in waves and we responded accordingly.  Today we live in a world of continuous change; a world that requires a built-in sense of urgency as a component for success.  So why is there always a sense, with some, that it can get done tomorrow or in “due course” when reality tells us that having a sense of urgency, individually, as a member of a team, or as an organization, provides a strategic advantage?  The answer is simple and challenging; having a sense of urgency means embracing personal accountability.  No less is true at the team or organizational level; having a sense of urgency screams the Nike mantra, “Do it Now!”.  So how can this important component for success in today’s world be developed and enhanced?

In 2008, John Kotter, a professor at Harvard Business School published, A Sense of Urgency, which was a follow-up to his 1996 publication, Leading Change.  His original publication established an eight-step approach to leading change that begins with “Establishing a Sense of Urgency”.  Kotter proposed that as organizations gain success, establish market power, and expand, they also develop a sense of entitlement, create an inward focus, lack an understanding of external reality, and display a lack of urgency to correct the problem.  In turn they become easy targets for younger disruptive innovators who are driven by a sense of urgency, and quickly become threats to their organization’s continued success.  Kotter offers four tactics to establish a sense of urgency in any environment: 

  • Bring the Outside In.  A “we know best” culture reduces urgency.  When people do not see external opportunities or hazards, complacency grows.  With an insufficient sense of urgency, people don’t tend to look hard enough or they look and do not believe their eyes.  It becomes easy to believe in what we don’t want to see.  It is critical to remember that if seen correctly, and in time, external change demands internal change.” 

  • Behave with Urgency Every Day.  Changing environments create a need for alertness and agility, which demand a sense of urgency that must be continually modeled by leaders.  Behaviors include: seeking information, speaking with passion, modeling, asking questions, and actively listening. 

  • Find Opportunity in Crises. Addressing problems or a crisis with a “damage control mind-set” limits consideration to one issue.  Better to think, “How can we capitalize on this situation to become better and stronger.  A properly leveraged crisis can be a valuable tool to break through complacency and become the springboard to greater things. 

  • Dealing with Resistance– Within every organization there are those who are ready with ten reasons why the current situation is fine, why the problems and challenges others see don’t exist, or why you need more data before acting. They are often significantly invested with past organizational success and may hold leadership positions.  Communication and education coupled with participation and involvement become the key components for helping resistors understand the urgency associated with the changes being sought.

Kotter shares that our greatest tool for maintaining urgency is knowing it is part of a cycle;  Urgency → Success→ Complacency→ Renewed Urgency.  Maintaining a sense of urgency in times of continuous change is critical for organizational long-term success. No less is true in our  personal lives and relationships.  Remember, dreams simply do not happen, you must have a sense of urgency to make that dream a reality.

Embrace the Urgency
Embrace the Challenge