Tips for Getting your Organization to Operate with Urgency

October 30th, 2018

In an economy where competition is king and remaining relevant is of the utmost importance, organizations of all shapes and sizes are constantly challenged to evolve. What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow and some of the best organizations are able to keep up with this rapid rate of change through operating with urgency, one of the five behaviors in our Hustle Handbook that are critical to innovate, disrupt, and make progress in the face of uncertainty.

Having the drive to push your business forward each and every day is one of the key factors when operating with urgency. Urgency is the motivation each day to stay on top and to respond quickly when you get knocked down.

Steve Case, founder of AOL, showcases the importance of urgency when referring to the first wave of internet adoption. Microsoft had just released MSN, a direct competitor to AOL, and was the first company to offer unlimited services for a flat fee, undercutting AOL’s prices. Case, knowing that time was of the essence, convinced his team to work through the weekend so that the following Monday, AOL could announce its own updated pricing. In doing so, AOL was able to avoid MSN taking a large chunk of their customers while simultaneously opening the door for a new revenue source–online advertising. Operating with urgency enables Bigcos to avoid getting left behind, as well as capitalize on new, momentary opportunities.

We see teams naturally operate with urgency when they’re on Sprints, focused for 3-5 days on a specific goal or challenge—the Sprint framework is built for it. But operating with urgency isn’t as simple during the day-to-day.

True urgency is an attitude, a mindset, a way of thinking and behaving. It requires you to start every single day with a laser sharp focus on winning THAT day. All of your tasks are centered around pushing you and your team forward toward a goal and always add value to the initiative – each task accomplishes something. True urgency is methodical and intentional, NOT frenetic or overwhelming; which leads us to the next point – what does urgency NOT look like?

The answer is two-fold – the first falls into a sense of “false urgency” – something that many organizations, both large and small, are riddled with. This manifests in overflowing inboxes, back-to-back meetings, and 70 hour work weeks. It’s activity for the sake of activity and it tends to be out of focus from the true objectives of implementing change. False urgency leaves teams exhausted and feeling “stuck” because their excessive input doesn’t equal a similar amount of clear output. False urgency leads to inefficiencies, short-term failures, and team burnout.

The second lies on the opposite end of the spectrum and falls into the bucket of complacency: that feeling of contentment with the status quo or fear of doing something new because we know what has worked in the past, and don’t want to be the one to change it. There is a general perception that what you are doing works, and that’s good enough. Complacency tells us that facing the obstacles or hazards that come with initiating change are not worth the risk. Complacency is dangerous in a world that is constantly evolving. The rate of change is increasing across all industries, and organizations that remain complacent are refusing to grow.

Identifying these behaviors within an organization is the first step towards change. Below is a list (though non-exhaustive) of a few signs that your organization might be operating with a false sense of urgency or in a complacent manner:

False Urgency Complacency
It’s impossible to schedule time with key stakeholders or team members because their calendars are double-booked with other meetings. Opportunities to implement new processes or efficiencies are overlooked because the implementation time is “too long”.
Questions get answered, but the answer is not actionable enough to find a true solve for the initial issue and often lead to more questions. New competitors are entering the industry at a rapid pace and the organization chooses to not properly analyze these new threats to their business.

Identifying the behaviors that are holding your organization back from true, transformational change opens up enormous opportunity for you to equip your organization with the skills and mindsets that enable operating with true urgency.

Here are a few ways to spark a sense of true urgency:

To continue learning how to operate with more urgency and hustle, read more about the other Hustle Handbook behaviors or schedule a training with your team.

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