John Kotter - “A Sense of Urgency”

Rather a tedious read but there’s some insight there nonetheless. I made some short working notes.


  • rooted in wins
  • feelings: content with status quo

False urgency

  • rooted in failures
  • feelings: anxiety and anger

Real urgency is rare

  • rooted in leadership
  • feelings: powerful desire to move fast

Delegate + purge

  • never allow delegating up

What undermines urgency

  • clutter
  • fatigue
  • busywork and full appointment calendar

Ways to increase urgency

  1. Bring the outside in
    A “we know best” culture reduces urgency; so help people see external opportunities and bring external viewpoints.

  2. Behave with urgency every day
    Managers and leaders need to walk the talk and lead by example. Be visibly urgent.

  3. Find opportunity in crises
    A well-leveraged crisis can be a valuable tool to break through complacency.

  4. Deal with the NoNos
    Address those who are always working hard to hinder change.