A Sense of Urgency

There seems like a singular common trait that distinguishes highly successful and productive people from the rest, one that differentiates between average and superior performers. This common trait is a sense of urgency that drives people to work much smarter and harder than normal.

team communication cartoonsHaving said that, the dilemma I am constantly battling these days is – how much urgency is good enough. If you move extremely fast you may not be able to carry the organization and if you are just a shade slow, a lot of opportunities may get missed. That’s a tricky one for a leader. In parallel, responsiveness – how one out manoeuvres, out flanks and out thinks others – is clearly emerging as a competitive advantage in today’s market environment.

Small organisations are inherently more agile and nimble. Their survival is always at stake for if they don’t move fast enough, they run the risk of being obliterated by larger, more established competitors. At the same time it is tough to find large companies that truly demonstrate a sense of urgency. Often they think that it is rarely demanded from them, (nothing that must be done today, this week) and by the time they wake up, it is often too late. There have been many such examples in the recent past… for example – who would have thought Nokia would falter and lose their way, in the manner they have.

It is almost like an inverse relationship exists between a company’s size and a sense of urgency embedded in its culture. Hardly anyone can afford to drift along with the status quo in today’s environment. Growth is not a foregone conclusion. Even survival cannot be taken for granted. The companies that thrive in today’s economy will be those that can shift their cultures from the slower pace of business-as-usual to one of super urgency.

It would be ideal if this attribute can permeate every aspect of our culture. Let me enumerate a few steps that support and help build urgency:

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Bias for action

Just ACT! While you never go into a battle without a carefully thought through battle plan, over analysis often leads to an action paralysis. There is almost never a point of absolute certainty and hence you got to decide and move on. At least you get a direction and as they say, it is easier to change course of a moving ship!

Be Result Oriented

It is always great to have a culture driven by outcomes rather than one focused on tasks. Those who offer reasons often do not produce results and those that have outcomes do not need reasons. Tasks are clearly a necessary, but insufficient condition of achievement. A leader has to stay focused on the WHAT and give people the room to decide HOW!

Outside-In Perspective

The biggest antidote to complacency is to get in an external world view. This grounds the organization and roots it in realism as opposed to flamboyance or a make-believe world.

Food for Thought

Walk faster. Get to the point sooner. Keep interactions short, to the point and always have an agenda for the meeting. Change quickly if things are not working…..just a few ways of creating a daily sense of urgency.

Are you aware of your own lack of urgency?


The above article has been contributed by Rajiv Srivastava, MD & CEO, Indian Energy Exchange Limited, India.

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