08 Sep 2008

Professor John Kotter Details How Leaders Can Create and Sustain a Sense of Urgency


A Sense of Urgency
by John Kotter

BOSTON — Many executives see that their organization needs to change. They may even know what the change needs to be: a new strategy, a new IT system, an acquisition or reorganization. But somehow, change comes too slowly or the implementation of that great new idea has stalled.

As change expert John Kotter shows in his new book, A Sense of Urgency, published by the Harvard Business Press, urgency is what's missing - and most needed - in almost all organizations. Kotter, the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership Emeritus at Harvard Business School, explains that a real sense of urgency is a distinctive attitude and gut-level feeling that leads people to seize opportunities and avoid hazards, to make something important happen today, and to constantly shed low-priority activities to move faster and smarter.

Kotter knows a thing or two about the subject of his new book. "Raising urgency" is the first step in his enormously successful, eight-step framework for change, first articulated in 1996 in his international bestselling book Leading Change. But as Kotter illustrates in his new volume, increasing urgency is the toughest of the eight steps, and the one without which even the most brilliant, high-powered initiatives will sputter and die. As businesses transition into a world where change is continuous - not just episodic - he shows how urgency must become a core, sustained capability.

Through a wide range of vivid and powerful stories about the failures and successes of various businesses and leaders, Kotter reveals a distinctive view of the kind of urgency needed in every organization. He also highlights the insidious nature of its nemesis - complacency - in all its guises and explains the crucial difference between constructive, true urgency, and the frantic wheel-spinning that is so often mistaken for urgency.

See a video of Kotter discussing the book and read excerpts of the book here.

John Kotter is the author of 16 books on leadership and change. In addition to Our Iceberg is Melting, a New York Times bestseller published in September 2006, his recent books include The Heart of Change, a 2002 best book list winner from both Amazon.com and Executive Book Summaries; Matsushita Leadership, the first-place winner in the 1998 Financial Times, Booz Allen Global Business Book Competition for biography/autobiography; and Leading Change, named the number one management book of the year in 1996 by Management General. Professor Kotter's other honors include an Exxon Award for Innovation in Graduate Business School Curriculum Design, and a Johnson, Smith & Knisely Award for New Perspectives in Business Leadership. In 2001, a BusinessWeek survey rated Kotter the top 'leadership guru' in America. For more information, visit www.johnkotter.com.

About Harvard Business School

Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 250 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and PhD degrees, as well as more than 175 Executive Education programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching, to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. The School and its curriculum attract the boldest thinkers and the most collaborative learners who will go on to shape the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.