Sunday, April 26, 2015

Book Review: A Sense of Urgency

A Sense of UrgencyA Sense of Urgency by John P. Kotter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For the record John Kotter's book, Leading Change is all we need to truly understand the process of initiating and sustaining a successful change effort.  The eight steps he elucidates there (and recaps in the fun little fable Our Iceberg is Melting) form a foundation for thinking through organizational change and for implementing it. I reviewed and posted summaries of those two books last week.

The first step in Kotter's change management formula is Create a Sense of Urgency.  Since it is  probably the most difficult of the steps, it merits further exploration.  Whenever people within an organization - whether they are managers or frontline staff, don't see or feel the importance of changing or improving how things are done, any transformation effort will stall - if it ever gets launched at all.  The person who first notices that the iceberg is melting (the customer reviews are bad, the law is changing, the market is tanking, new technology is overtaking us, etc.) has to tell the others, and explain the implications of the discovery.  If the leaders keep the information under wraps, why would anyone feel a need to do anything about it?  They won't.  

There is a difference between true urgency (acting with a sense of real purpose) and false urgency (anxious activity and busyness.)  We're not talking about acting all panicky and spreading the upset around the workplace. To Kotter, creating a sense of urgency means communicating the need for change and making sure all members of the team know why it matters.   

Kotter has a good thing going, creating popular books that offer a unique solution to a problem experienced by many organizational leaders. His work is helpful enough to merit being purchased and read.  The material in A Sense of Urgency would better fit an article than a book, but then I probably would not have picked it up. A two-page summary, written by me, is available for download here.

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