“I want to see more urgency”
I hear this from executives all the time.
“I want to see more urgency.”
Urgency is one of those troubling words that is often thrown about, but not grounded in something do-able.
I’ll ask them, What exactly would urgency look like? What would you see? Would you feel better if people were all running around in a panic?
But it’s actually very simple to create urgency. If you want more urgency, schedule it.
Defining the Middle
As I’ve been talking about my upcoming book MOVE, one of the biggest issues organizations face is “The Middle”.
Strategies have a lot of attention and investment up front. Long term goals are defined at the end. And then there is the vast expanse in the Middle which is often not discussed — and is where literally everything needs to get done.
What I find is that organizations too often launch into the Middle with the end goals in sight, but never specifically talk about needs to happen during the Middle.
What will you SEE?
Long-term initiatives (and urgency) suffer from what feels like an abundance of time in the beginning.
The way to combat this is to specifically define things in the middle that you will SEE. Here’s what I mean…
For example: Your goal is to sell higher in your enterprise accounts.
So, let’s say you have defined your end goal to be something concrete: 50 new executive level relationships and 5 big deals closed by the end of the first year.
Though that concreteness is good, be careful to realize that it tells you nothing about what you will SEE or DO during the Middle to achieve it.
So what happens is that everyone nods their heads and goes back to work. Nothing changes. It feels like you’ve got plenty of time. There is no urgency.
Charting the course through the Middle
So now the task is to start defining the Middle. Work backwards from the goal. Define what you will SEE.
For example for that outcome to be true in a year, what would need to be true 9 months out?
9 months out: 30 new big deals are under discussion, 10 of deals are officially in the pipeline.
Then you ask, for that to be true 9 months out, what would need to be true in 6 months?
6 months out: 50 target accounts are defined and 50 executives are named, and each one has a sales salesperson assigned and a quota for the next 18 months.
For that to be true 6 months out, what will need to be true 3 months out?
3 months out: 100 accounts are selected for vetting, and that 25 sales reps in North America have gone through a training, and have found and external mentor who can help them up level their sales skills.
If that were true 3 months out, that means …
1 month out: The first 25 sales reps have been identified. We have created a headhunting firm of sorts to help match them up with external mentors.
Achieving Urgency: Part 1
Without this process of setting points throughout the Middle, people leave the meeting nodding their heads and thinking, “Yeah, that’s important, but we have a year to get it done, so I don’t need to worry about it for a while.”
When you get a task that will take a year, on any Monday early in the process, you kind of still have a year. If you don’t start it for a month, you still have most of the year. But this thinking can repeat over and over again. Suddenly you are 10 months in and still have 12 months of work left to do!
But if instead, you define the timeline up front, and you leave the meeting with checkpoints already defined for 1,3,6, and 9 months out, people leave the meeting with specific actions that need to start as soon as next week!
People can’t simply just go back to work and feel like they have a year to make it come true. They have tasks to do starting immediately!
Achieving Urgency: Part 2
Once you have a timeline, where you can all agree the specific things that you will SEE throughout the Middle, and the resulting specific things that you will DO, then you can ask yourself, “Is this pace fast enough?”
If it is, great, if not, tighten up the actions you have placed on the on time line to occur at a faster pace. If you can get your team to buy in to the shorter timeline, and you stay focused on achieving each milestone, you will have created actual urgency — by scheduling it.
Putting Strategy into Action
This is the process I use over and over again with clients in my Strategy into Action program. We go from vaguely talking about urgency, to aligning on a timeline that regulates the right amount of urgency by being clear and actionable. If you are interested in learning more about using this process with your team, contact me. I’d love to help.
My upcoming book MOVE is about decisively executing strategy
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In my years of leading business transformations and turnarounds, building highly successfull management teams, and working with countless clients to implement their strategies, I have determined what factors enable faster, more decisive execution, and reduce risk.
It’s all in the book! I can’t wait to share it!
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Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor.
She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)