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How to Instill a Sense of Urgency in an Organization

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If your employees don't have a sense of urgency, you might run into trouble with complacency, missed deadlines and missed opportunities. But urgency isn't the same thing as emergency; it doesn't mean frantic activity or being reactive to fear. Urgency means that goals, decisions and jobs are handled without delay and that the company is always striving to stay ahead of the competition. Creating this atmosphere keeps employees on their toes and can increase productivity and creativity when done right.

Put an End to Bureaucratic Red Tape

A company that has too much bureaucracy or too few leaders with actual autonomy risks stagnation. When only a few people are empowered decision makers, urgency diminishes because change and decisions tend to happen slowly -- so slowly that opportunities can be lost. Prevent this by empowering more people to make decisions for their department and acting quickly on those decisions. But as you empower new leaders, keep an accountability and reward system in place. Hold them responsible for decisions so they take them seriously. But also reward them for success so they're not motivated by fear.

Don't Rest too Long on the Victories

Urgency can be lost if you get too comfortable with one victory. Don't relax for too long or decide that the win is a reason to slow down and become complacent. In an ever-changing economy, one win won't last long. Explain to your colleagues why your company needs multiple wins to truly gain traction toward long-term success. Celebrate the win, but establish deadlines for when you'd like to achieve the next victory.

Don't Use Delays as an Excuse to Not Be Brave

Sometimes taking a big step forward as a business requires bravery. It's easy to avoid making courageous decisions for your company by making excuses and deciding that you have to spend more time on strategy. Putting off action by over-strategizing can suck the urgency from a business. Counteract this temptation by making decisive actions your top goal. As you make plans and strategies for the business, consider how you can take decisive action every day so you don't lose momentum and urgency.

Avoid Panic While Creating Urgency

Creating a sense of urgency can also lead to panic and fear among employees if it's not managed right. For example, you can help create urgency by sharing bad news with employees in a way that expresses confidence the business will overcome its challenges. Fully explain the bad news and don't leave room for rumors or conjecture, which can cause panic and create an obsession with short-term survival rather than long-term goals. Present bad news with transparency, optimism and a strategic plan that motivates employees to get things back on track.