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The Importance of Urgency

Podcast with Harvard Business School Professor and best-selling author, John P. Kotter

Professor John Kotter, Harvard Business School John Kotter

"True urgency is a gut-level determination to move and win, now."- John Kotter Keynote speaker at the SHRM 2009 Annual Conference in New Orleans., John P. Kotter is the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus, at Harvard Business School. Dr. Kotter is widely regarded as the world's foremost authority on leadership and change. His is the premier voice on how the best organizations actually "do" change.

Professor Kotter is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award in Workplace Learning and Performance. This award was presented by ASTD in recognition of his extensive body of work and the significant impact he has had on learning and performance in organizations. Dr. Kotter and his firm, Sage|Kotter, work with organizations around the globe to guide, educate, and inspire people to become better leaders, to successfully transform organizations that enrich lives today and build a better world for future generations.

He has published 16 books, 12 of which have been business best-sellers and 6 of which have won awards or honors. With millions of copies sold, his books have been translated into more than ninety languages. He is also the author of several seminal articles in the Harvard Business Review.

His latest book, titled A Sense of Urgencywas published in 2008, and is the basis of much of Kotter's SHRM presentation and this podcast.

This podcast is sponsored by Taleo, where Talent Drives Performance.™

Questions Peter Clayton asks John Kotter in the podcast

In your keynote at SHRM you were speaking to an audience of human resource professionals who's sense of urgency for the past year has be one of "reduce head count." How do you create the kind of positive urgency you advocate in a profession whose focus is "will I still have a job tomorrow?"

In your new book you speak of the importance of establishing a sense of urgency. But these days in the economic climate urgency seems to equate to survival rather than vision and the long-view. How do you convince companies to focus on the sense of urgency tied to their vision rather than just the urgency of survival?

Reading from your Harvard Business School blog: Complacent organizations are content with the status quo--they pay insufficient attention to new opportunities, are inwardly focused, and do whatever has been the norm in the past." As an example of this you sited the Obama administration and the culture of Washington, DC - can you share some of your thoughts on this topic with us?

Back to your SHRM presentation - you described The 8-Step Process of Successful Change you've developed. Telling the audience that urgency was not only the most important but most challenging. Why so?

One of the leaders you told us about was Mary Kay - can you share some of that story with us?

I'd like to discuss one of the tactics in your book: Deal with the nono's -- some recent research conducted by the Gallup Organization indicates that only 29% of the U.S. workforce is engaged (i.e. loyal, enthusiastic, and productive) whereas 55% is passively disengaged. -- (the mini nono's) -- 16% are "actively disengaged" (the toxic nono's) How can we instill a real sense of urgency when 70% of the employees have check-out?

I'd like to return to the vision thing. You speak about the importance of transformational change. Can you give some examples of how you have persuaded CEOs to move into a vision-based, big-picture frames from P&L, accountability frame?

How do you create the paradigm shift that is needed to take a company from a competition-based culture to collaboration-based culture? Again, how do you persuade a CEO that this will be a viable approach?

And how do you convince him or her to shift the system of providing employee incentives to incentives for collaboration rather than the more common long-standing system of incentives for competition?

Speaking of incentives, how do you convince leaders to provide incentives for innovation vs. profit as the driving force?

John Kotter's Keynote John Kotter's Keynote at the SHRM Annual Conference... Nothing fancy. A straight-shooter with the tools of his trade: An overhead projector
Peter Clayton

About Peter Clayton

Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.


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