real vs false urgency header

A culture of urgency is the fuel to drive Process Improvement forward. But when urgency breaks free of perspective, it becomes “busy-work”. And that can get dangerous on the shop floor.

If you’ve come any distance down the “Lean Road”, you know that your sense of vision is the best motivator for your team. It’s not the kind of vision that you summarize in an email memo. It’s the kind that you demonstrate, day in and day out, that inspires others to join you.

Vision creates perspective. Perspective is what keeps urgency from becoming dangerous. Here’s the difference between the 2 types of urgency:

  • False urgency needs this job done now and then the next job done now. It thinks about the next step and then the next. It doesn’t coordinate with others. In a Manufacturing setting, it can lead to people running down the stairs 2 steps at a time, cutting corners on safety protocols, and machines not being cleaned or serviced properly.
  • True urgency finds the horizon, and create a map as it charts backwards. It keeps perspective, knowing the goal is urgent but the task is not. It neither hustles nor bustles, but takes correct, coordinated steps, exactly when it needs to. True urgency understands that slowing down to keep things safe is the only way to achieve business goals.

real vs false urgency manufacturing

Here are a couple ways to keep your culture of efficiency as safe as it is productive:


1) Don’t Make Busy-Martyrs

How “busy” are your employees telling you they are? Are they wearing their busyness like a badge? When you ask about their task, do they throw how busy they are back at you?

Martyrs-of-busyness are only productive within their tiny sphere. They don’t collaborate with others, and that both brings down morale and creates costly silos between teams and departments.

Sometimes you need to slow people down in order for them to be more effective. That’s why production based KPIs like quotes are double-edged swords—if not managed properly, they lead to “busyness” and that makes people sloppy.

It’s up to the boss to create, or discourage, the culture where busy-martyrs thrive. That sense of inward-seeking, anxious busyness is the essence of false urgency. It leads to safety checks being skipped, spills not getting cleaned up, and accidents happening all over your business.


2) Dialogue with Your Team

An over-exuberant sense of urgency can be dangerous, but a healthy culture of urgency should improve your safety conditions.

Dialogue is like oxygen to process improvement.  Conversations, both formal in meetings and informal on the shop floor, are what keep the sense of urgency to keep improving alive.

Open the lines of communication and your employees will do more than offer ideas. They’ll point out potential hazards that you haven’t seen before. Not only will ongoing communication drive urgency forward: it will improve the safety of your business.

steps to urgency in manufacturing

In the manufacturing industry, quality output is vital to everyone who touches the organization—your team, your customers, and the business itself. Healthy urgency means accepting the challenge to deliver better. And that can’t be rushed.