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A Sense of Urgency Hardcover – August 5, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 113 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Author and international business consultant Kotter (Leading Change, Our Iceberg is Melting) returns with an engaging look at companies that need to overcome a lack of urgency-or a surfeit of complacency-with a proactive agenda. Kotter dissects well his seemingly simple premise, using his professional experiences to examine the inner workings of real companies. Kotter defines his terms with clear language and bullet lists, convincingly asserting that urgency "is not driven by a belief that... everything is a mess but, instead, that the world contains great opportunities and great hazards"; it is, in fact, "a compulsive determination to move, and win, now." Among suggested tactics: bring the outside world into overly insular work teams; make your deeds consistent with your words; view crises as potential opportunities; and disseminate data that "feels interesting, surprising, or dramatic," as opposed to "information so antiseptic that it flows in and out of short-term memory with great speed." Great examples illustrate real-life frustrations and successes, and a special section on dealing with the nay-sayers is full of practical ploys to overcome dissent and kill complacency.
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Change can strike fear in the hearts and minds of businesspeople, whether frontline employee or C-suite executive. Harvard Business School professor Kotter is the master of change, hammering home his eight principles straightforwardly (Leading Change, 1996) and via fable (Our Iceberg Is Melting, 2006). Now Kotter identifies the single biggest factor to successful change, which also happens to be his number-one principle: creating a true sense of urgency. In a way that will resonate with those charged with carrying out new corporate strategies or implementing transformation, he details one streamlined strategy—appeal to the head and the heart—with four supporting tactics: bring the outside reality in, behave with true urgency every day, selectively look for upside possibilities in crises, and effectively confront what he calls the no-no’s. Stories accompany all; unfortunately, a number are repeats from The Heart of Change (2002) and stripped of detail for confidentiality. Charts and chapter summaries help connect theory to the practical question: How do we move people to act? An easy, quick read that provides good elucidation of what makes change work. --Barbara Jacobs
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Press; 1 edition (August 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422179710
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422179710
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,170 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Mark P. McDonald VINE VOICE on November 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A Sense of Urgency is a book that is sorely needed in today's times as the difference between urgency and change will make the difference between survival and liquidation in today's economy. Executives need to recognize the difference between the two. Urgency creates a motivating force on results and teaming. Change is imposed from above, the subject of skepticism and Dilbert cartoons.

Every organization needs to change, that is commonly understood and the subject of endless books, including those by John Kotter. We have become complacent in our approaches to change management as every one of those books deals with change as a process, an event something that happens and then happens again at a latter date. This gives executives the belief that there is a change management recipe, based on principles like the burning platform, communication, and executive sponsorship. That recipe has lost its meaning and its time for use to change the approach to change management.

I recommend this book to any executive, manager, team leader, and concerned professional as a way for them to lead and create results in a powerful way. The book is easily read over a weekend, a couple of airplane rides, etc. The charts and tools are clearly presented and actionable. Overall a must read part of any management library.

Why? Because change has lost its potency. It's become routine and we have lost sight of its fundamental roots. Change and enterprises have become internally focused, concerned with themselves, their processes, their investments etc.

Kotter reminds us that the root of success involves sense of Urgency. Urgency is the highly positive and focused forces that give people the determination to move and win now.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Kotter is author of the now classic business book, Leading Change, published in 1996 and still a bestseller. In that previous book he suggested eight steps in leading change. The first of these was to develop a sense of urgency.

As a follow-up Kotter has written A Sense of Urgency. In this 2008 book he clearly makes his point in the six page preface and the first three chapters that take up 61 of the 196 total pages of primary text. That is all you need to read to benefit from his VIP's [short for very important points].

Here are some of the VIP's:

*The single biggest error people make when they try to craft change is they do not "create a high enough sense of urgency among enough people to set the stage for making a challenging leap into some new direction." [viii]
*Our biggest challenge is complacency. "We underestimate its power and its prevalence." [4]
*Our second biggest challenge is a false sense of urgency. "A false sense of urgency is pervasive and insidious because people mistake activity for productivity." [9]
*To increase a true sense of urgency, "create action that is exceptionally alert, externally oriented, relentlessly aimed at winning, making some progress each and every day, and constantly purging low value-added activities--all by always focusing on the heart and not just the mind. [60]
To create a real sense of urgency I entreat you to go forward and do likewise. What is your first step to create a real sense of urgency in your congregation or other ministry setting?
[...]
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Format: Hardcover
Years ago, Stephen Covey suggested that many (most?) executives spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough on what is important. In Chapter 1 of this book, John Kotter suggests that, in fact, the problem is that many (most?) workers -- including executives -- do not have "a true sense of urgency [that is a] highly positive and highly focused force [and] the result of people, up and down the hierarchy, who provide the leadership needed to create and re-create this increasingly important asset. These sorts of people use a strategy that aims at the heart as well as the mind. They use four sets of tactics." Kotter devotes the balance of his book to explaining what the strategy and tactics are, why they are essential to the success of individuals as well as to the success of their organization, and how those who read his book can execute the strategy and tactics to achieve the given objectives, whatever they may be.

As I read this book, I was reminded of recent research conducted by the Gallup Organization indicating that 29% of the U.S. workforce is engaged (i.e. loyal, enthusiastic, and productive) whereas 55% is passively disengaged. That is, they are going through the motions, doing only what they must, "mailing it in," coasting, etc. What about the other 16%? They are "actively disengaged" in that they are doing whatever they can to undermine their employer's efforts to succeed. They have a toxic impact on their associates and, in many instances, on customer relations. These are stunning statistics. How to explain them? Reasons vary from one organization to the next. However, most experts agree that no more than 5% of any given workforce consists of "bad apples," troublemakers, chronic complainers, subversives, etc.
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