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.

13 responses to “a sense of urgency”

  1. Andrew Meyer Avatar


    thanks for an interesting post. It caused me to think about things I have seen again. You definitely put Kotter’s book on my reading list. From reading your review, I’ll be interested to see if he addresses things that I’ve seen.

    Of course, it gave me wonderful material for a blog post…

  2. Eric D. Brown Avatar

    Thanks for the comment. The book is well worth reading if you have an interest in organizational change.

  3. Shaw Avatar

    I'll tell you what, sense of urgency is the key , and I think buy in also matters. I just came out of a action planning meeting from work today, and we have a bunch of great ideas, but the problem we have is that the people that need to make the change don't have a sense of urgency because they haven't bought in.

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  5. Anne Collins Avatar

    Thanks for the review. The book definitely looks interesting. I’m currently looking for a way to motivate my team and instilling a sense of urgency might work to a certain degree. I’m not really looking to make any big changes to our overall strategy, I just want to accelerate our progress and I don’t really know how to go about doing this. I hope this book might help. Thanks.

  6. David Violin Avatar

    His book Leading Change was a great read, looking forward to the other two, going to get them soon.

  7. Chicago Realtor Avatar

    I like the way you point out the key issues to consider during organizational change initiatives. These are very important and people sometimes do ignore them, thanks for the nice article!

  8. billigfliegen Avatar

    What are the titles of the other two books?

  9. ericbrown Avatar

    Hello – Kotter's other books are “Leading Change” and “Our Iceberg is Melting”

  10. ericbrown Avatar

    Hello – Kotter's other books are “Leading Change” and “Our Iceberg is Melting”

  11. billigfliegen Avatar

    What are the titles of the other two books?

  12. ericbrown Avatar

    Hello – Kotter's other books are “Leading Change” and “Our Iceberg is Melting”