A False Sense of Urgency

Updated: Apr 13

I needed to do the laundry, but then I realized I was out of detergent, so I went to write a shopping list and went to grab paper and realized how unorganized computer desk was and started reorganizing the files and started checking pens for ink. When I went to toss all the junk and paper files and worn out pens, I saw that the trash was full but before I took it out I wanted to get rid of old food in the fridge. That's when I realized a juice jug had leaked so I needed to clean it up but when I went to grab a rag, I saw that the pantry closet was a nightmare so I started to organize it... and that's how I ended up on the floor looking at my old photo albums from the 1992 and not doing laundry. I don't know about you, but sometimes this is my life. I'm really busy....but productive? I don't know what I finished today. And a lot of this comes from jaded framing and prioritizing and focus of my day.

Jaded framing of decisions can also impair clarity and create a false sense of urgency. John Kotter (2008) writes that there are three states of urgency: real sense of urgency, complacency, and a false sense of urgency. Complacency of course is us not doing laundry and living in dirty clothes... which might be what some of you have been doing for the last 7 months.


False sense of urgency can lead to rash decisions and untimely actions... like looking at old photo albums instead of doing laundry.


Real urgency is when we know that we will have NO clean clothes left and must do laundry TODAY. That's real urgency. Real focus.


This mindset can be kind of comical in this example but in work teams the laughter seems to die down.


I was collaborating with a team inside a large oil and gas company that hosted a "needed it done yesterday" type of leader. The leader would speak of any initiative, project, or goal then state with frenzy that it was urgent and really needed to be done yesterday. The team was always on edge about what new goal or task or project would be urgently assigned at any moment. The result was a less than excellent performance, increased stress in the team dynamic, and lack of clarity in prioritization of team goals as a result from the false sense of urgency. These veiled threats and unproductive noise created a team of anxiety, fear, anger, and frenetic activity.


So, here's what I want you to do, whether it be doing the laundry or leading a team. Prioritize critical issues in a reasonable framework and do your best to stay focused to see that project, or at least load of laundry, through to the end.


Reference:

Leading Change; John Kotter, 2008

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