John Kotter published The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations with Harvard Business School Press in 2002 in which he talked about the need to create a sense of urgency to:
1. develop a team to guide change,
2. clearly communicate the vision,
3. knock down obstacles, and to
4. create and publicize short-term wins.
Kotter followed that up in 2008 with another book on organizational change titled A Sense of Urgency. Kotter reminds us how critically important it is to be clear and concise about our current situation. Keeping a happy face for too long during challenging times leaves you with few options when you really have to rally your leadership team. But although you have to create that sense of urgency to give your change efforts purpose and momentum, beware of the false urgency. Crying wolf might work once or twice, but it will never sustain your organization over the long run. Look for ways to increase your overall levels of urgency. Build urgency into your culture!
As you are dialing up the urgency in the workplace, celebrate every chance you get. Short-term wins get people excited. If your staff knows that good things are happening, that you’ve just won a big contract, that revenue is up, or whatever the short-term win might be, they’ll be happy.
If they don’t know about those positive results, if leadership is doing a poor job of telling the team about short-term wins, then many employees will be looking for jobs. I just met with a company yesterday where the executive made on flippant remark about the paltry business development pipeline, and you would have thoughtChicken Little had a bullhorn.
It’s up to you to fill in the cracks of ambiguity that result from inaccurate information that somehow leaks into the water cooler conversation at your company. So, as the little victories occur, make sure that they are communicated – and celebrated – because many of your most important assets ride the elevator to the lobby every evening, and you want to keep them engaged.