real vs false urgencyComplacency kills businesses. The problem is that we know this. We’re so scared of complacency that we push our teams to stay busy. Complacency kills; busyness wounds.

Urgency is key. There are 2 kinds:

  • 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. It trades aerial perspective for the perspective of those grinding away in the trenches.
  • 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 is the fuel that drives Process Improvement forward. False urgency is false hope that drives your people into burnout.

false vs true urgency

3 steps to urgency

1) Listen

Stop measuring your day by hours. Start measuring it by focus. You always have more hours available than you have focus to make them productive. Choose wisely.

Listen to your team. How many times per day do they mention how busy they are? Do they list off what they need to do when you say “hi?” Do they wear their busyness like a badge of honour?

Keeping a business running smoothly is not checking off a list of errands. It’s giving your focus to the processes that matter the most.

Ask your team what was their 1 solid accomplishment that day. If they can’t think of one amid their errands-list of busyness, you need to slow them down so they can be more effective.


2) Look

Is your office a kicked-over anthill?  Are people scuttling this way and that way, each with their own task?

Pay attention. Are they working together like a symphony, or all tooting their own tune? Are they focused on one task at a time, or multi-tasking? Is one task happening well, or are 5 tasks happening poorly? Are they talking to each other? Passing tasks on like batons in constant collaboration? Or quiet and heads-down-busy?

Someone can look productive when they’re really looking for a stapler. See beyond the busy.


3) Ask

In order to run the business, you need to be present in it. Check in with your team, both in groups and one-on-one. Is your team thinking about the horizon, or are their eyes focused on the ground so they can take the next step? You won’t know unless you ask.

Process Improvement works when you tap into your business’ most valuable resource: its people. Buy them a coffee or walk with them in the hallway. Talk to them, and find out where their focus is.

If it seems they are solely focused on getting through some “To-Do” list, get curious. And start with yourself. Your fear of complacency may be rubbing off, so check in with the example you’re setting and make sure it is moving your team forward. Remember: false urgency only replaces complacency with waste, at your team and the organization’s expense.

Inspire them, don’t scare them. Show them where on the horizon you need to go, and then hand them a pencil to map it out together. Start to frame each task they do with the horizon in mind. Stop being busy, and start being visionary.