Introduction - Ingredient 2 - Establishing a Sense of Urgency (introduction)

. Ingredient 2 (establishing a sense of urgency) is very important, as it will create an awareness that will activate people to support the transition. This ingredient overlaps with Ingredient 1, ie laying foundations for new ways.

. Real change does not begin until the organisation experiences some real threat of pain that in some ways dashes its expectations or hopes. Whatever its source, this threat of pain creates high levels of learning anxiety and survival anxiety, ultimately prompting the organisation to launch a serious change program, ie

"...that motivational, and thus cultural, shift happens most readily in times of crisis, when an existing way of going about things has not worked, and we and organisations are in a period of instability..."

Danah Zohar et al, 2004

NB The sense of urgency needs to make the staff in the organisation feel very, very uncomfortable. If it is perceived as too much of a threat, people will not respond in a positive way.

. It is not unusual for the senior management to feel most threatened by the new learning because it reveals their previous behaviour to be dysfunctional

. The strategies used in Ingredient 2 must be visible and catch people's attention

. It is estimated that over 50% of organisations fail in their transition at Ingredient 2.

. One of the hardest and most important ingredients to implement (especially for a well-established organisation and/or one that perceives itself as "successful")

. It is interesting to note that

"...the Chinese expression for 'crisis' consists of 2 characters side by side......The first is the symbol for 'danger', the second the symbol of 'opportunity'..."

Al Gore, 2006

. Without a sense of urgency, people will not give the extra effort that is often essential for the change to be successful, ie they will not make the sacrifices needed; they will cling to the status quo and resist initiatives from above

"...despite the excellent press that change is given, almost everyone resists it - except when they are dissatisfied......if you want people to be risk takers, frame the situation as very threatening..."

Nigel Nicholson, 1988

. The sense of urgency is about "raising the heat" and not giving people a choice, ie "to survive, we have to change"

. Sense of urgency and level of complacency are linked, ie a high sense of urgency and a low level of complacency work together to facilitate change

. Must stress that a "business as usual" attitude cannot continue as too much is at stake

. One of the strongest barriers to change can be the inability of organisational members to engage in an open, fact-based inquiry into a potentially threatening issue

. Furthermore,

"...Most change initiatives end up going nowhere......don't fail because they lack grand visions and noble intentions. They fail because people can't see the reality they face. Likewise, studies of corporate mortality show that most Fortune 500 companies fail to outlast a few generations of management, not because of resources constraints but because they are unable to "see" the threats they face and the imperative to change. "The signals of threats are always abundant and recognised by many", says Arie deGeus. "Yet somehow they fail to penetrate the corporate immune system response to reject the unfamiliar"..."

Peter Senge et al, 2005

. In the case of AMP, ex CEO Andrew Mohl describes how the 158 year old financial service giants had many "senses of urgencies" to kickstart the cultural change that successfully turned disaster to survival and success

"...we have seen the financial crisis, take-over threat, massive board and management changes, dramatic organisational change and cultural change. Not to mention the loss of investor confidence as well as disclosure and regulatory issues..."

Andrew Mohl as quoted by Narelle Hooper, 2007c

. Sometimes need a sense of urgency to "blast people out of their current mindset"

. A good example is NASA in the space race with the Russians in the mid-20th-century. Russia's initial space successes, like first satellite/sputnik in space, first orbit of the Earth, the first animals and humans into space (including first woman into space, first group of astronauts into space, first spacewalk, first unmanned space craft to land on the moon), etc created a sense of urgency for the Americans. The Americans fear that the Russians had superior technical knowledge and could put weapons into space which would threaten America and its interest. This blast of the US government, American citizens and scientists in NASA, etc out of their current mindset and increased their performance so that they were the first to land a man on the moon and return it safely to Earth.

. The critical mass is reached when 75% of senior managers regard "business as usual" as unacceptable

. Sometimes called the "burning platform" concept, ie "...burning platform is commonly used to describe an incumbent business facing relentless pressure from a new entrant with better technology, lower costs and, in most cases, a radically different business model..."
Tony Boyd 2019d

It involves a brutal understanding of reality:

"...roustabouts are standing on the offshore oil rig and the foreman yells ‐ "jump into the water"‐ not only won't they jump but they also won't feel too kindly towards the foreman. There may be sharks in the water. They'll jump only when they themselves see the flames shooting up from the platform. Chrysler's platform was visibly burning; the company changed. IBM's platform was not visibly burning; it didn't..."

Lawrence A. Bossidy in Harvard Business Review, 1998a

Burning platform concept was developed in the 1990s by corporate consultant Daryl Connor (Sally Patten 2018). He coined the metaphor after watching a man who jumped from the equivalent of 15 stories from a burning oil rig platform in the North Sea into the freezing water below and survived . This concept refers to the urgent need for a company to implement a radical strategy to drive change to avoid its potential demise.

. This ingredient can be likened to an organisational audit

. Most people will not change unless they feel a sense of crisis or urgency. A leader must create this sense of urgency, and explain that this is the time to change before it is too late. One way is to use stretch goals, ie goals big enough to force people to think differently. But it is not enough to give staff the sense of urgency; you have to provide them with the techniques and processes to deal with it.

Success is when most staff act to support a genuine belief that change is essential


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