importance of urgency in process improvement

Culture of Urgency: Why It’s Hard

Sprinting is easy. We:

  • Focus hard on the finish line.
  • Stretch till we’re limber.
  • Put everything we can into our burst of speed.

Do you have a sense of urgency when you sprint?  Of course you do. And then it dissipates after. Imagine maintaining the urgency of a sprint for a marathon. Not the speed (that’s impossible), but the focus. Grit. Intensity.

Every business wants to succeed at Process Improvement. We all try. We mostly fail.  We fail because we think it’s about speed. But…

It’s about urgency.

Assume this: that your business has a deep culture of complacency. Most do. Our cubicles and job-sites are full of people pulling 8-5, day-in and day-out tasks. They do their job well, get paid, repeat.

You’re the boss, and you want to be more profitable. You hear HLH talk about “process improvement” and it’s a good idea. You wake up at 3am with thoughts on how you can do things better. You write memos and give pep talks. You have intensity and focus, and your staff rally around you. And you see small changes happening…

And then the sprint is over. The sense of urgency gets trampled by daily tasks.  We’ve been there. Maybe you’re there now.


Culture of Urgency: What It Looks Like

It looks like you showing up Every. Single. Day. with the same message: seek waste and destroy it. It looks like you doing this until your managers catch the bug. Then their teams. And then you’re running a marathon with the urgency of a sprint. It looks like the janitor spotting waste and telling the CEO about it, and action happens. And money is saved.


Culture of Urgency: How to Get There

culture of urgency main points

Tell the Truth:

They won’t feel urgency if they aren’t motivated

They won’t be motivated if they think the business is invincible

They won’t know the bottom line is fragile if you pretend it isn’t

Employees always think you make more money than you do. Be transparent about market realities. The more you tell them, the more they feel included. It’s what we teach our kids but forget ourselves.


Include Everybody:

The Culture of Urgency isn’t just for managers. Everyone’s mortgage is on the line. Everyone wants to make more money.

Set up a forum where everyone is heard. Walk the floors. Re-learn how to talk to your staff without giving orders. Break bread with them. Listen.


Don’t Make Big Changes:

Make small changes; make them permanently.

One small change. Make sure it’s sustainable.

Another small change. Make sure it’s sustainable.


And another.

And another until you have a stack of sustainable changes, and an army of engaged, included staff sniffing around for more waste to fix.

And then you start to save some real money.