The #1 Red Light: A Lack of Urgency

There are many reasons why change may stall, but the number one reason is lack of urgency. If the project team exhibits lack of urgency toward achieving goals, this behaviour should raise immediate alarm for project champions and project leaders alike.

In some instances, a lack of urgency may be exhibited because people don’t understand why the project is being done in the first place. Clarity around goals and objectives has not been provided. When this happens, people would rather live with the problem as it currently exists than accept a solution that they do not understood.

To get staff motivated and instill urgency in making change, a clear business case must be presented about how changing will improve the organization’s condition. In addition to the superb business case, extensive training and communication must be undertaken early on and throughout the process. If not, lack of urgency will persist.

Here are some other ways in which to handle lack of urgency:

  1. Evaluate the external threats to the organization. These threats may form the basis of a business case to get the project moving and to instill urgency. Benchmarking is also an effective tool to identify what things the organization can do to differentiate themselves from the competition.
  2. Educate top management to help them understand how the initiative can directly help their performance as well as the performance of their organization. Top-down commitment to the project is important.
  3. Align metrics and goals. Define three to seven major goals and how they will improve the organization’s condition. If the list is larger than this, “analysis paralysis” may overwhelm employees and nothing will get done.
  4. Through regular communication, expose employees to concepts and possibilities of new paradigms and the benefits of doing things differently. Show them, don’t just tell them. Use examples from other organizations or even from small implementations in different parts of their organization.
  5. Do a pilot project for a quick hit. The pilot project should provide visible and undeniable evidence of success that employees can see very quickly. When they see this, they can visualize future success for the whole company. Along these lines, people sometimes may need to see why not changing will inhibit future success; almost moreso than how changing will improve the chances for success.
  6. Buffer employees from top management so they can try some new things without management always saying nay. It’s sometimes easier to apologize after the fact, rather than ask for permission beforehand. Let employees implement small changes, so they can prove that thee concept works not only to themselves, but to the organization as a whole. By doing so, some urgency will be diverted back into the organization.

When the organization has a sense of urgency for change, not only is it likely that the project is completed within its allotted timeframe, but there is also a greater likelihood of sustainable change. In fact, some experts suggest that change should be delivered with urgency and in no more than nine months. So if you’ve got a large project, break it out into bite-size pieces so that each piece can be completed in a few months. By doing this, you will have many examples of successful wins to demonstrate to management that long-term success can be achieved along with sustainable change.