Tyranny of the Urgent

I was introduced to this term while running a planning offsite for a client.  I can’t get it out of my head.

Most of us are familiar with Stephen Covey’s concept of the four quadrants.  Covey’s tool is great for effectively managing your time and many leaders in the midmarket use some form of the four quadrants.  You know the drill.  Your break down your daily activities into categories based on whether they are urgent (not urgent) or important (not important).

Rule one for the leader who is aiming to build business value is this: stop focusing on anything that doesn’t add value.  Sounds simple, even juvenile at times, but it can be oh so hard to do.  But you must find ways to move beyond the “hair on fire” approach to management, the lurching from crisis to crisis that bedevils so many CEOs.

But this term “tyranny of the urgent’ reflects how many organizations establish priorities.  So many organizations find themselves going from crisis to crisis.  Even the routine becomes a crisis.

We’ve done this to ourselves in the business world.  Does your company culture expect an answer to an email question within an hour?  Are deadlines arbitrarily set?  Do you find yourself responding to texts or emails as soon as you receive them?  Do you expect immediate response to your queries?

The problem is not with a workplace culture that is responsive, the problem is a workplace culture that doesn’t think, doesn’t balance, doesn’t have clearly communicated priorities.

If everything is urgent, then nothing is urgent.  And the trivial gets done at the same time as the critical.

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