For example, the manager in our case firm has a crisis on its hands, but he also has an opportunity to engage the company in an all-out effort to turn things around once he has helped them understand the crisis at a gut level. Our customers have better options, we are not the company we once were, we have to turn this around because our customers deserve better, and we want to shape our future. Then the manager can get them organized into groups with specific tasks: How can we improve efficiencies, what steps do we need to take to improve customer service, etc. The point is to focus energy on the problem in a way that builds trust among the team.
- Deal with the no-nos: Kotter defines no-nos as “urgency killers.” These folks are more than skeptics — they can give you 10 reasons at any point in time why the status quo is just fine. And, if they can’t convince their peers the status quo is just fine, they will convince them that all of the activity you are whipping up is just a waste of time. No-nos will undermine your efforts to build urgency at every possible turn. Ignoring them will not help. In the end, some of these folks may have to go. You may be able to put enough peer pressure on some of them to minimize their impact — if everyone else gets it, their voices won’t carry much weight. Take them as a serious threat to your efforts to move your organization forward, and find ways to minimize their impact.
As we head into winter, it is a good time to do some thinking about professional development for your leadership team. One good way to do this is to take a quality management book and have every member of your team read it and then lead a discussion of the book. If you are not comfortable in this role of discussion leader, you might work with a supplier or bring in a consultant or someone from your local university to help. These kinds of activities can help your leadership team “bring the outside in” and ask them to look at the world a little differently. Two books worth considering this winter are the two we discuss here: How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins and A Sense of Urgency by John Kotter. Happy reading!