Saturday, November 08, 2008

A Sense of Urgency - John P. Kotter

This book is so timely and relevant given the current global financial meltdown that is affecting businesses in every industry. The world changes very quickly now and being complacent is not something any company can sustain and remain viable. Awareness has been heightened in the last several months as many long standing business icons have gone out of business or been acquired. This is probably only the beginning of the fight for survival many companies will face in the coming year.

John P. Kotter has written many books on change and leadership including Leading Change, The Heart of Change and Our Iceberg is Melting. In this book, he discusses the importance of creating a feeling of urgency that propels everyone within an organization to engage in tackling issues NOW. He outlines what brings many companies to a place of complacency, how a false sense of urgency can be damaging, and what strategies and tactics can be employed to get people to recognize that urgency is critical to managing change.

This is as much a "how to" book as an analysis of organizational change and how leaders need to respond in keeping their organizations competitive over the long term. Kotter covers important issues like modeling the type of behavior we expect from those we lead. He points to how important it is to purge low return activities on a daily basis and to delegate effectively. Meetings should end with a clear action plan and accountability in place so everyone understands what is expected in moving initiatives forward. He covers the importance of communication - what needs to be communicated and how. It is very much a "nuts and bolts" kind of book, and the summaries and charts he provides are excellent in capturing these ideas as clearly and simply as possible.

I found the book to be an engaging read and a quick one. This is not a heavyweight academic tome. It's about motivating the reader to quit reading the book and get going already on creating a daily sense of urgency. I think this book is in the "must read" category. There is not an organization of any kind anywhere, that does not face a constant battle against complacency. And truly, it can kill a company if allowed to go on to the point where competitive advantage disappears entirely. I highly recommend it.

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