A Sense of Urgency
by John P. Kotter
Here’s another much-needed approach to the very familiar but often ignored subject of change. I’m not certain anyone could be more suited to address this critical issue than change guru John Kotter. This Harvard Business School Professor is widely regarded as the world’s foremost authority on leadership and change. His is the premier voice on how the best organizations actually “do” change. He’s very well-known for his previous best-sellers, Leading Change, The Heart of Change and Our Iceberg Is Melting.
In his newest work, A Sense of Urgency, Kotter shows what a true sense of urgency in an organization really is, why it is becoming an exceptionally important asset, and how it can be created and sustained within organizations. His latest work is, simply put, a sequel of his previous book; Our Iceberg Is Melting … a fictional story of emperor penguins who fight for survival during the threat of change. In that bestseller, Kotter shared the eight steps to overcome and embrace change. The initial step of the eight was a sense of urgency.
His latest book is focused on that first step. As Kotter wrote, “Most organizations handle step 1 poorly.” This book is sorely needed in today’s times for that very reason. Without a “true” sense of urgency, the following seven steps to embrace change are simply an exercise in futility. A sense of urgency is vital to a process of change. Kotter also reveals the two most hazardous enemies to developing a sense of urgency: complacency and false urgency and how to cope with each.
This focused narrative concentrates on the actions and practices involved in creating and sustaining a sense of urgency. Kotter provides four core tactics for driving urgency into an organization. These tactics are supported by anecdotal stories and detailed tools which make the book actionable and practical. The tactics are:
- Bring the outside in.
- Behave with urgency every day.
- Find opportunity in crisis.
- Deal with NoNo’s.
Kotter provides tips, tools and strategies for overcoming the fear, anger, and ingrown complacency that derail the change process. Charts and chapter summaries help connect theory to the practical question: How do we move people to act?
A Sense of Urgency is a powerful tool for anyone wanting to win in a turbulent world that will only continue to move faster.
(This book review was originally published in 2009 as one of the Top 10 Books – Edition 20.)