a sense of urgency

John P. Kotter, author of “Leading Change” and “Our Iceberg is Melting” is set to release a new book titled “a sense of urgency” (release date September 3 2008).  I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy to review….and for the most part, I’m glad I read it.

The basic thesis of the book is that organization’s have a heard time “creating” the ‘right’ sense of urgency in order to ensure organizational change occurs. NOTE: My regular readers may remember me complaining about the term ‘creating a sense of urgency‘ in a previous post (see here and here)….I still don’t like the term ‘create’ but am coming to grips with it. 🙂

The author presents the following three key issues to consider during organizational change initiatives.

  1. Urgency – The sense of urgency must be ‘high enough’ before beginning any change efforts.
  2. Complacency – organizations become complacent and ignore the need to change.
  3. False sense of urgency – could also be described as ‘urgency directed at the wrong things’.

According to the author issues #2 and #3 above are the key issues keeping organizations from implementing and retaining the ‘right’ changes.

Many organizations have become complacent with their current position in their industry.  This complacency lulls the people and organization into thinking that their previous successes will allow them to remain leaders in their industry.

In contrast to complacency, false sense of urgency occurs when an organization recognizes that they need to change but don’t really understand what or how to change.  Because of this, most organizations ‘create’ change initiatives by forcing change, which does nothing but create a flurry of activity.  This flurry of activity is quite impressive…but it is energy expended on the ‘wrong’ change.

The author suggests that when an organization has a true sense of urgency, the leaders of the organization will demand change now with real progress made every day.  He suggests that leaders ‘win the hearts and minds’ of their staff.  He argues that presenting information and data to your staff is all well and good but information by itself will not embed the proper sense of urgency within the organization.  In order to install the ‘right amount of urgency’, you must present a logical case for change as part of an overall strategy to engage the hearts and emotions of the people within the organization.

The author provides some information on how to capture the hearts and minds of an organization, but doesn’t go into too much detail or provide in-depth analysis of why these methods work.  I like this fact because there’s never really a ‘right way’ of winning people over and I believe the author understands that.

I will say there is one minor aspect to this book that I didn’t like…the fact that the author uses words like ‘right change’, ‘wrong change’ and ‘proper sense of urgency’ without describing how to determine what these words really mean.

That being said, I liked the book overall.  It is an easy read and full of helpful information. If you have an interest in organizational change, I’d recommend this book.  It is an excellent primer for anyone interested in learning how to instill the proper sense of urgency by winning over the hearts and minds of your organization.

NOTE: This book was provided by the publisher as an advanced review copy.