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on 31 January 2011
John Kotter is widely regarded as the world's foremost authority on leadership and change. Author of such bestsellers as "Leading Change" and "Our Iceberg Is Melting" this volume came into being after he reflected on the question "What is the single biggest error people make when they try to change?"

Deciding the answer to be "...that they did not create a high enough sense of urgency among people to set the stage for making a challenging leap into some new direction" he investigated further by systematically asking managers a set of questions that led him to formulate the strategy outlined in this book.

Utilising case studies and interviews, the strategy is based around winning hearts and minds and involves four tactics that, if developed correctly, will increase needed urgency. Once the urgency is in place he then explains how to keep it going and then plan for the future.

This is a fairly interesting but extremely well written book. The inclusion of the case studies turn what could have been a dry management theory into a relevant and easily applicable plan of action. Showing how organisations have suffered through complacency and illustrating what could have been done to avoid the suffering is a useful tool that may be plotted against your own organisation.

My only criticism would be that it feels a little padded out in places, as if the ideas didn't really need expressing on their own but in one of the books that are quoted throughout.

7/10
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on 11 April 2009
We are all working with turbulence and uncertainty. If not, then consider you might be missing something... We are all faced with the need to address, manage and navigate change in our lives, careers, organisations or job. For all fans of Kotter (and who could not be?) this book is where the task of 'change' begins. Kotter tells us that urgency obviates linear process, detailed planning, slick presentations, cluttered calendars and hidden agendas. How many of us work in organisations displaying these misguided characteristics? This book is a guide to shedding low priority distractions and to embracing the core capability of urgent action as the first step toward achieving sustainable change. As ever with Kotter - this is an essential read.
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Whenever I meet CEOs, they invariably tell me that they wish their people had more "fire in the belly" or more of a sense of urgency. What are they talking about? Their organizations go about saving someone's life in such a slow methodical fashion, that no life would ever be saved. It's as though a fire truck arrived at a fire and never unrolled any hoses or attached them to any fire hydrants. Instead, they are checking the equipment before getting started.

I have seen this in my own organizations. Hire a new marketing person, and you can be sure that not much more will be accomplished in the first six months than to have the company stationery, business cards, and promotional material redesigned.

What the leaders often don't realize is that their behavior facilitates this "business as usual" slow-motion sleep walk. If you want to get beyond that frustration into effectiveness, this book can help you.

Professor John Kotter knows all this. In his excellent books on change management such as Leading Change and The Heart of Change, he documented that change requires these characteristics be present:

1. A sense of urgency
2. An effective guiding team
3. Appropriate visions and strategies
4. Communications that cause the right messages to be understood by all
5. Allowing people to make necessary changes
6. Making regular progress that inspires people
7. Keeping at making useful changes
8. Not letting the helpful changes unravel

As you can see, it all starts with a sense of urgency. In this book, Professor Kotter gives us his most in-depth look at how a leader can instill and take advantage of a sense of urgency to overcome complacency and bad habits.

He proposes that leaders engage a strategy of continual action based on sensing changes outside the organization that provide opportunities or present threats while eliminating activities that don't add much value. Such a strategy should be implemented in a way that appeals to your organization both rationally and emotionally.

To implement that strategy he suggests these tactics (see pp. 60-61):

1. Bring the outside in with engaging information so that the outside is acknowledged, understood, and acted on.

2. Demonstrate urgency every day as a leader and expect everyone else to do the same.

3. Find appropriate opportunities to change and improve from crises that threaten the organization.

4. Wall off, neutralize, or eliminate those who oppose or slow down change for no good reason.

The book goes on to provide lists of questions, examples of good and bad behavior, and check lists to help you follow Professor Kotter's advice.

I found a few flaws in the ointment that concerned me about the book that I think you should be aware of:

1. In the book's beginning, there's a lot of attention paid to what is described as a "false sense of urgency." He characterizes people with this attitude as feeling that change must be made but whose actions aren't very helpful (like the new marketing people who spend a lot of effort redesigning the stationery). I don't think that's the only syndrome that you have to deal with. I also see people who have a real sense of urgency, but who don't have the management skills to know how to fix whatever it is that needs to be fixed. I would characterize that as incompetent management. Professor Kotter fails to address what to do about incompetent change management.

2. The sections on the tactics don't contain many examples, and many of the examples are ones that he has shared in earlier books such as The Heart of Change. I would have liked to see more examples and more details about how to pursue these tactics in organizations with different kinds of cultures. As a result, I didn't feel like I gained very much information about the tactics beyond what the description of the tactic provides.

3. Can leadership be defined and parsed like management is? To some extent. I think that Professor Kotter doesn't feel comfortable trying to do so. As a result, the book is a little on the superficial side for a reader who hasn't seen an effective change leader in operation.

4. There are many other tactics for leading successful change that require the use of new business models and those ideas are totally missing from the book.

But I don't know of a better book on the challenges of creating a sense of urgency in leading change. So do read this one and make the best use of it you can.
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on 11 October 2010
Complacent organizations simply cannot keep pace with today's accelerating rate of change. Resting on your laurels is no longer viable. Competitors, evolving markets and technological developments will swamp organizations that try to sit things out on the sidelines. Today, organizations must adopt the "fierce urgency of now" ethos that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made famous in the 1960s. Business expert John P. Kotter explains why. His book tells leaders how to foster a "sense of urgency" among their employees. He contrasts "true urgency" with "false urgency" and discusses why negative pressure is counterproductive. getAbstract recommends his clear, enthusiastic book to executives who want to motivate employees, meet crucial goals and effect change in their organizations.
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I have bought Kotter's books in the past and with this one I am disapppointed. Whilst I understand that Kotter is considered a guru in the fields of change and leadership I find this book very basic. with some ideas that are common sense and no "how to" sugestions - step by step. I have prompltly returned this book as well as I found it repetitive and not ground breaking. Maybe 20 years ago his ideas were amazing, but nowadays it is basic common sense.
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on 19 January 2014
Other reviewers all make fair points. John Kotter is one of the greats at studying leading and managing change. His ideas are therefore of great value. He has come to the view that the key is that the people involved feel the necessary urgency of change. That can read like a very simplistic thought (compare with personal change such as weight loss or stopping smoking). However, it is still a powerful thought. The book is short and to the point and worth a read for anyone interested in leadership and change. It backs up the main point with techniques to get people thinking that urgency matters and anecdotes as to how others have managed it. My experience in my firm is that until they think they are about to lose their jobs they don't see any need; and then all they want to do is lash out and blame.

I found it inspiring stuff. Perhaps having the unabridged audio in the car for long journeys would have been better for me.
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on 11 July 2009
Sometimes we need someone to clarify the fog of intuition for us. This book did just that for me. It has opened a door for me in understanding how to address complacency and lacklustre in the workplace. Everyone benefits from a well directed sense of urgency.
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on 14 April 2009
I had heard a lot about this book, so I was prepared for new insights.
Unfortunately, I found this book disappointing in its depth.
My experience is that in a networked environment, it is not sufficient to pick one top-1 priority and stick to it.
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on 29 February 2012
I ordered this book as both the title and the look of the book appealed. However when the book arrived it was a plain black cover which on first impression gave you the idea the wrong book had arrived.
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on 12 September 2014
Once again the author makes you sit up and realise how critical this step is in the change model. Could not put it down and already looking forward to putting it into action now
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