Sense of Urgency is one consistent pervasive element in the agile concept that cuts across innovation, research, development, marketing, sales, operations, finance, human resources, and more. That element is also called speed. To be sure, I do not mean haste I mean speed that generates swift, momentum and progress toward a goal.
Speed is the essence of a sense of urgency, or that quality that makes one able to achieve so much more than others. That factor that makes one entrepreneur or company successful while another continues to founder like a ship with no rudder.
Speed vs. Haste and a Sense of Urgency
I terms of business, as I see it, haste is bad. It means unnecessary quick action, thoughtless, rash or undue speed (from dictionary.com). You know the adage, “haste makes waste.”
On the other hand, speed is good. Speed is about winning and achieving. Speed is defined in terms of performing, the full, maximum or optimum rate of motion (also from dictionary.com). Think of “top speed, full speed, get up to speed, expedite, promote success,” or my favorite, the absolutes comparators of “the speed of sound, or light speed.” this later list are terms analysts use to relate business performance of top companies.
Sense of Urgency
In business, whether you are a start-up, a multi-billion-dollar enterprise, or something in between, today’s demand on the enterprise forces a sense of urgency in every activity and business function.
Think Fast – Leaders must quickly assemble known information and communicate pervasively to begin to initiate forward movement on a path – even as additional information is discovered. This is the essence of flexibility.
Move Fast – That initial direction and subsequent forward driving progress based on the initial thinking of what to do. It requires constant communication and includes an information, discovery and check-in loop to tune direction.
Fail Fast – Failing is the key to learning. Leaders must build into the culture that it’s ok to fail, but to do it fast, get over the failure and immediately on to the next thing. And, don’t forget to communicate so everyone knows the change in direction.
Learn Fast – The closer to the experience of failure one learns its lesson, the less analysis effort is required to regroup, change, and redirect. Communicate the lessons learned to everyone to ensure maximum institutionalized knowledge gain.
Succeed Fast – is the culmination of the Think – Move – Fail – Learn cycle, and is the difference between “just doing,” and “doing with a sense of urgency.” Communicate the successes, revel and celebrate the success in order to prepare and motivate to do it again.
Build a Culture of Speed
Performance of your organization in every aspect can be improved by developing a culture around this sense of urgency cycle. The experts and academics call this a learning organization and I have added the essence of speed to their definition. Speed maximizes your competitiveness.
Take Time for Reflection
As speed becomes a part of your culture, ensure leaders take the time to reflect on what has changed, what was done, what can be improved, what barriers can be removed, and what can increase the speed tomorrow, over the speed today. You may ask, “How can I stop and take stock, if we are moving so fast.” The answer is that speed in your culture should make new time available for other things.
That is the beauty of a sense of urgency; it creates time for other things. Don’t forget to invest in your people, your community, and other places with the new found resource.
What do you think?
Is your organization operating with the optimal sense of urgency? Does it differentiate between speed and haste? Do leaders in your organization allow for each element in the cycle? Does every function (HR, Ops, etc.) in your company carry a sense of urgency to deliver on their part to achieve the company’s goals?