Creating the right kind of urgency to bring about change

Strategy + Business, 2020-07-08

Problem statements

  • Many CEOs think that the response to the crisis is sticking to the core business activities and improving current products and practices.

  • The urgency of a burning platform dissipates very quickly.


  • There’s nothing wrong with sticking to your guns in defence. Also can speed up old improvement projects (digitalization, robotization, etc.).

  • In the fast-moving environment this may not be a good idea (KODAK).

  • Key question: it the existing business worth saving or improving before using new tech to improve it?

  • Clearly, insiders are in a poor shape to make unemotional decisions about their businesses.

  • Can “laggard users” (those who’re not ready to use the new tech) be sacrificed for the purpose of running faster?

  • Many examples relate to better focus on the mission, and invariably this means cutting fat, making redundancies and becoming lean financially.

Sense of Urgency

  • Roadblocks:

o   Incentives in the system

o   Short-term pressures to respond to disruption

o   Desire to utilize (vs waste) assets and competencies

o   Emotional attachment.

  • 74% CEO agree on the need to create urgency and a “burning platform”.

  • However, the burning platform dissipates very fast, often without results.

  • Start with having a compelling purpose.

  • Implement workable mechanisms to embed the changes in the new mindsets, norms and habits to deliver after the initial emotional high.

  • But triggering emotions is not enough: new stuff wears off.

  • So it’s a long-term work with continuous reinforcement.