A sense of urgency and questions to ask

I have been reading a bunch of books these past few months. One of them I just finished was A Sense of Urgency, by John Kotter.

Kotter explains urgency, but further explains that a false sense of urgency an organization might have is worse than complacency. Running from meeting to meeting and filing your day with activities to make it like you are truly busy busy busy. But, “A false sense of urgency, may be even worse than complacency because it drains needed energy in activity and productivity. (P 6)”. So a false sense of urgency is worse than complacency.

So what are you personally currently complacent about? Where has your organization grown complacent? Does your organization have a false sense of urgency?

Kotter clarifies that a sense of urgency is actually more feeling than it is intellect. “Underlying a true sense of urgency is a set of feelings: a compulsive determination to move and win, now.” … “Feelings are more influential than thoughts.” … “Great leaders win over the hearts and minds of others”… “Great leaders win the minds and hearts of others. Heart comes first.” (p. 45). Kotter further explains, “Our brains are programmed much more for stories than for PowerPoint slides and abstracts ideas. Stories with a little drama seem to be enjoyed by our feelings and, more importantly, are remembered far longer than any dry slide filled with analytics. (p. 54)”

How can you create stories around the issue at hand to create a sense of urgency? What personal stories can you use professionally to create the sense of urgency your organization needs today?

Kotter says, “With a culture of urgency, people deeply value the capacity to grab new opportunities, avoid new hazards, and continually find ways to win. Behaviors that are the norm include being constantly alert, focusing externally, moving fast, stopping low-value-added activities that absorb time and effort, relentlessly pushing for change when it is needed and providing the leadership to produce smart change no matter where you are in the hierarchy… Create the behaviors you want (p. 185).”

What about your organization culture, does it have a culture of real urgency?

“Focus on quick and easy…. Be opportunistic. Try something… Whatever you do, look for feedback. If an action does not help, abandon it. If it works well, consider doing more. Make something happen….  Raise the culture question: “Is the way we do things around here a barrier to ____?” (p.190-191)

In your organization, where can you focus on the quick and easy to build a sense of urgency?

I am going to continue to dive into some of the tactics in this book a bit deeper in blog posts in the future. This is just to get you thinking about change…

Read more: The Biggest Mistake Kotter sees


Rock and Role – What’s our roll look like in the future?

I know I just used the wrong type of “rolls” in the title. I always get a kick out of people when they use the wrong roll, role or wear and where, and hare and hair. I mean I think sometimes I am a bit dyslexic too. I can hardly spell  – but I think its because I have grown up in the spell check era – and anything that I have constantly spelled wrong, has been auto-corrected for me and I don’t know the RIGHT (or write) way to actually spell it (or sometimes it corrects itself!).

Anyways that was a tangent  – but I have been thinking a lot lately, mostly because it’s been the topic of a few different discussions and communities of practice about the ROLE of Learning and Development.

A few weeks ago, I was in a lunch meeting with a very intelligent man in the communications area of a huge R&D company. We talked about how his teams were struggling with their jobs – not in the fact that they weren’t doing them but they were realizing that they had lost control of the message. The real question is – did they ever really control it? I think the same goes for L&D  – when did this shift happen, or did we ever have control?   Were people not going and getting their own information when we didn’t have a formal class on the subject? Honestly, I think they were getting information elsewhere.

I haven’t worked in L&D for really that long – almost 3 years actually – so honestly who is to say that I really knew what the ROLE looked like – however I do want to have an impact in the way it looks in the future… But what do I want it to look like in the future? I really don’t KNOW. Does anyone? If you do, fill me in.

What do I wish that this role looks like in the future? Facilitator of behavioral change.  Now thats a BIG job. Training is a basic building block for change, but its not the only thing that facilitates change. “Training” comes in all sorts and sizes and methods. Social, informal, on the job, just in time, classroom, lecture, workshop, webinar, webcasts, sessions, presentations, activities are just the beginning. I think the role of L&D professionals is going to have to help the business facilitate change. And work WITH them to figure out what the best methods are to combat resistance and to get people on board to head down the path to success.  Also I know that training is not always the solution and you have to be armed and ready for people who think that training should be able to solve everything.

For example, a recent conversation with my new manager went like this:

me “People need basic training on our product.”

manager “ok – lets make a video blog. “

me “uh? no. thats not really… ” and I lost the attention of my manager.

He wants a quick fix. And unfortunately there isn’t one.  Sorry. Change is hard. Getting people to switch from one thing they are used to and to do something different is really hard. To say that a video blog is going to train them, isn’t really THE solution. (what the heck is a video blog anyways??) This may be apart of the solution. But back up and let’s figure out what the problem is first. And I don’t think there is a one size fits all type of solution for my role. I do know adults (myself included) like to get their hands dirty  rather than listen to someone talk through 40 slides.

So in my own honest opinion some key things we will need for future for this role is:

  • Change Management background, skills, knowledge and anything else related to change
  • Having an open mind – without limiting to what people may need
  • Communication skills
  • Business acumen and business process knowledge.  I am not an expert by any means but the time I spent learning Purchasing, Customer Service, Manufacturing, Accounts Receivable and General Ledger stuff has proved invaluable. You have to know the business and different areas. No question about it.
  • Planning – get the bigger picture down on paper – but be OK if it needs to tweaked or adjusted.
  • Technology savvy. There is really no way around this, it has become an expectation, especially in social media.
What about you? What skills do you think are needed for the L&D role in the future?