Leadership & “A Sense of Urgency”

A sense of urgency

A Sense of Urgency” (John Kotter, 2008). This blog post is my critique of the leadership development book. Each of my critiques review the key message of the book, the high-level concepts, the book’s areas of strengths, and where it falls short. I conclude each critique with an overall assessment ranking (1-10 ascending) of its effectiveness in providing the reader applicable lessons in personal and/or leadership development.

Overview: “A gut level determination to move, and win, now.” Urgency can be a strategy that aims for the heart and the mind. John Kotter argues that urgency is the first step of eight steps to leading organizational change. Leaders must create a true (not false) sense that action must be immediately taken.

High-level concepts: One must behave with true urgency in order to get the same out of others. This includes purging and delegating, moving with speed, speaking with passion, matching words with deeds, and letting others see your sense of urgency. Other tactics to increase urgency include bringing the outside in, finding opportunities in crises, and dealing with the ‘NoNos’.

Key Message: “Make something important happen today.”

Areas of Strengths: Not many people have taken a deep dive into the subject of urgency. John Kotter gives words to that which practitioners intuitively understand. Not only that, but he positions the subject at the forefront of requirements of successful organizational change and differentiates true versus false urgency, and its associated emotional reactions. It’s revolutionary.

Supplemental Information: John P. Kotter – Faculty & Research – Harvard Business School (hbs.edu)

Where it Falls Short: In his later chapter, “Keeping Urgency Up,” Kotter provides a success story to follow in order to embed lasting urgency into the cultural DNA of the organization. It didn’t land, however. If complacency/ lack of urgency is the main reason large initiatives fail, more time and dedication should be given on how to maintain urgency.

Overall Assessment & Why:  I rate it a 7 out of 10. I wrote a college level course on his full book and eight steps to “Leading Change” and I appreciate that he separated Step 1: Build Urgency to expand upon on its own book. There is something missing, however, and I believe its more impactful to remember the few key phrases/definitions than it is to spend time reading it.