Are You Average or Good?

“The average organization when someone asks when you want something, they pull out a calendar, but in a good organization, they look at their watch and we really got to get that way.”
General Stanley McChrystal, US Army

Many of us will never confronted with the challenges of General McChrystal managing the war in Afghanistan where procrastination and delays in taking action could be measured in lives lost. However, as business leaders we are engaged in battles that are fought by our organizations each day. Successful outcomes of major or minor engagements is often a function of the sense of urgency that key people apply to each situation.

We have all heard the proverb “For want of a nail, . . .” where permitting a small undesirable situation will allow a gradual and inexorable worsening that in business results in lost business, margin erosion, lower profits, marginal quality, etc.

What is the answer?
As the leader of your organization you are responsible for setting the example and leading the way. Here are some questions that you should try answering which will indicate how effective you are in promoting and modeling a sense of urgency in your organization.
  • When something needs to be done do you search for your calendar or look at your watch.
  • Do you put off until tomorrow decisions and actions that could be completed today?
  • How hard do you fight throughout the day to make sure you make your commitments or re-prioritize as soon as it becomes obvious that a targeted task can not be completed, set a new date and communicate the change to those involved?
  • Are you able to transfer the excitement that you feel for your work to those around you so that they become individually motivated like you?
  • Do you publicly recognize those who are demonstrating a sense of urgency in their individual jobs or as teams of people?

Urgency as an end all is not the answer. Working in a highly urgent mode for too long can create stress and lead to job dissatisfaction. Too many urgencies is an indication of a fundamental problem in the organization that needs to be addressed.

The key lies in knowing when and how to respond to demanding conditions accordingly. Hopefully putting the right people in key positions, providing adequate training and operating procedures and support infrastructure will help everyone work effectively.
An organization that adopts an “urgent” profile by doing the above, leader included, will find it meeting or exceeding customer expectations on a regular basis.

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