A Sense Of Urgency And John P Kotter Philosophy Essay

John P. Kotter is the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus, at Harvard Business School. Kotter is an eminent and renowned author in the field of writing books regarding change in the organizations. John Kotter is internationally and extremely regarded as the speaker and a critical thinker on the topic of change and leadership. Kotter is also famous for his authentic opinions for bringing about change and has a distinguished place as an international business consultant. His latest book “A Sense of Urgency” in which he talked about eight steps to overcome and embrace change is a sequel of his previous work, “Leading Change “and “Our Iceberg Is Melting” The first step of the eight is a sense of urgency which is poorly handled by the most organization and consequently becomes the reason of organizational decline, so Kotter presents and suggests the gruesome guidelines to the organizations that how they would actually transform successfully. Kotter’s wide experience and knowledge on affluent change have been proven time and again. The title of the book “A Sense of Urgency” is very appropriate with its subject matter. He discusses in his book the first step in bringing change in the organizations in detail. He identifies the single and enormous factor to a successful change, which also is regarded his number-one principle: creating a true sense of urgency.

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John Kotter in his book “A Sense of Urgency” tries to answer the most frequently asked question, “What is the single biggest error people make when they try to change?” In the course of his research and asking different managers about their experience, he landed on the finale, that at the groundwork of any effort to change you have to start with a sense of urgency. This can sometimes be mistaken for a false sense of urgency. Everyone looks like they are actively achieving the company’s goal but really they are aggravated and forced. This can make it hard to keep your focus on the company’s main objective. In this book, “A Sense of Urgency” the distinction between true urgency and false urgency will be discussed.

To maintain urgency up, over a large period of time, urgency has to be re-created over and over again. Urgency basically always leads to triumph, which then leads to satisfaction. This satisfaction is for the most part obvious, after a company encounters a large grow and the captivating frame of mind is conspicuous. A triumph allows people to feel that the urgency is over and they become complacent with their work. But when a triumph has been made rejoice, it is hard to be provoked daily without ever feeling like you accomplished anything.

Kotter stresses upon the fact of complacency in the organizations. In the beginning he somewhat accepts the reality that this complacency is actually a root cause of the downfall of any organization. As per his point of view, in this fast moving world everything is changing quickly and the people who do not want to cope with it, would soon tumble down. They have no perspectives of their own. Their sluggish behavior will soon hazardous for not only to them but their surroundings too. They always think that they are perfect and challenges are only being faced by others. It does not prove that the writer wants to implement a sudden change which would only occur in such a way that people make presentation on power point and lot of meetings being arranged and in the end no solution would be made. Kotter is not in the favor of false urgency. It usually brings frantic results which destructs the action of true urgency.

The writer believes in a positive approach in life. He approves the time of “all is well or everything is a mess” has gone and the behavior to move forward and win is required. Political and social environment keeps on changing and what a single person can do is, to move ahead without having any repercussion of his past failures. Kotter presents different tactics by narrating anecdotal stories and detailed tool to make the book more pragmatic and useful. His tactics are:

1. Identification of the lack of right urgency.

2. Face the reality of change.

3. Patience in the crises.

4. being steadfast to overcome the ordeals in the way of change.

Kotter deals with many problems and misunderstandings surrounding to the concept of urgency. In his opinion urgency itself is very necessary part to all businesses, not just who initiates to bring about change. Employees become oblivious to change possibilities, whether good or bad. He describes that every move towards urgency is not usually beneficial but only true urgency is productive in such cases. He uses times and again, a word “right” sense of urgency in his book. To maintain the right sense of urgency is a real job, not only to apply it and leave it without any endorsement. He promotes to work smartly not hastily; and the sense of profit and loss at the right time, because if the right decision is not taken at the right time, there is no use of such right decision.

A real sense of urgency should amazingly be encouraging and spongy and does not mean to close the eyes when the trouble comes. It should be a stimulant which makes you ready to confront the projects and predicaments that would normally consume their work schedule. Only try to get away with complacency by saying, “what we are doing is not longer what we will need in the future.” Kotter refused to adopt the habit of complacency because in doing so organization becomes self centered and do not allow outer components of the business and this results in the downfall of the organization. Instead of suppressing the complacency, often a rapid and quick sense of urgency is seen which is also not in favor of organizational health.

He further explains that whenever change occurs in any organization there is always a first group who do not accept crises pleasantly rather they are much concerned about the consequences of the change. On the other hand there is a second group whose attitude is rather supportive and encouraging to the management. They seem to avail every opportunity from the crises and try to reinvent the organization by making necessary changes in it. The idea of working well in the past hinders to bring about change. Urgency in this situation should be recreated over and over again.

So to speak the truth, not only the employees of the organization but owners themselves are subject to the destruction of their businesses. The owners are sometimes obsessed with their continuous success and forget to see the new prospects. Consequently, it brings about catastrophic deterioration in the business from inside in the end.

At this point Kotter seems confident enough to plead his case when he asserts on the managers and the employees to foresee the outcome beforehand. External aspects in the process of change are as important as internal issues, because management usually ignores the role of external pressure upon the internal environment of the organization. It is observed that whenever these external intrusions are not handled correctly the budget schedule of the organization get affected badly. So the act of complacency and false urgency are contradiction in terms of true urgency


Like any other book this book has both its strengths and weaknesses and each are intertwined with the other. In other words some of the book’s greatest strength can also be considered its greatest weakness.


The great organization of the book is flawless. The writing style is easy. He uses a very simple language which can be understood easily. He presents very significant issues to bring about change in an organization. The title page is extremely meaningful and appropriate to the subject matter. He spots the light over three main key issues to consider during organizational change initiatives i.e. urgency, complacency and false sense of urgency and describes them in detail. Kotter is a strong advocate of bringing change in an organizational culture because without being change, progress in this world is not feasible. He suggests that leaders should “win the hearts and minds” of their staff. To employ the “right amount of urgency,” one must presents a rational case for change as part of an overall approach to engage the hearts and emotions of the people within the organizations.

Kotter seems to play with the words, for instance, the use of “false urgency” in the contrast of “right urgency” has made his work comprehensible, that even an ordinary reader can differentiate the distinction between the two.

This book has made different managers able to know that urgency is that big of a problem in business who always thought of urgency in the sense of an emergency, not anything to do with business. This book really opened their eyes up to the notion of urgency in many ways. The people who strive to be the manager, that not only listens to their employees when they have suggestions, but actually takes them into consideration for further growth. All while paying close attention to the real anxieties and frustrations they have when rules and system just do not work for every position. Also, they will try to be that person that evokes a true sense of urgency everyday so that everyone around them feels that they have to spend their day getting as much productive work done as they possibly can.

Each sub tactic contains a focused page and a half discussion of what they are and how leaders can implement the idea. This detail and its presentation is what really distinguishes the book and brings something new to discuss.

Complacency is the crucial word he has used through and through in his book which means, “A feeling of contentment and satisfaction, especially when coupled with an awareness of danger and trouble”. It is not just a thought but a feeling. This feeling can bring catastrophic downfall in one’s constant successful future. This feeling makes them lazy and lethargic and when they come to know about their decline, they hastily adopt the behavior of false urgency which is directly opposite to complacency, it turns over into arrogance. Consequently some radical steps should be taken. Kotter here tries to persuade his readers the significance of good communicative relationship between employer and employee. He thinks that a leader should play a role of a bridge between him and his workers. Meaningful communication with the employees and a critical feedback from the customers and their personal opinions should be welcomed

The book’s main weak point is that it is not detailed in their examples. There are discussions of nondescript companies that reduce rather than support the messages. Most of the case stories do not have a conclusion – the results companies were able to achieve. This makes the examples more fables that case studies.

Initially the book does not distinguish that there are other approaches to change management and urgency. This discourages the reader the ability to place “A Sense of Urgency “in the background of the broader literature. This book does not recommend or provide any idea to its reader to enhance his knowledge regarding change. Secondly, there are less pragmatic solutions to be implemented in the organization for the desired change.

Another aspect of the book that may fall prey to criticism in the area of tangible examples is once again modified to be used by the community of corporate organization and for businesses and not by other groups. Kotter provides various relevant tactics that can be broadly applied in the business organizations not in other educational institutes.

Finally, there are some unexpected gaps in the book that by themselves do not weaken the book, but in total they certainly take away from its power. First the book does not recognize that there are other approaches to change management and urgency. This denies the reader the ability to put A Sense of Urgency in the context of the broader literature. This is really unfortunate as this book should replace some ideas and enhance others – Kotter leaves that up to the reader rather than providing a recommendation. Second, the book has no index, which not only makes it tougher to use after the fact, but also is a silly omission.


This book is well worth reading if one has an interest in organizational change. This book would definitely motivate the team members of any organization and will instill a sense of urgency into their work to a certain degree. It is an easy read and full of helpful information. It is an excellent primer for anyone interested in learning how to encourage the proper sense of urgency by winning over the hearts and minds of their organization.

With several tactical leadership approaches existing, leaders can properly create change and help their group feel at ease throughout their transform. By creating and maintaining a sense of urgency, communicating a clear path toward success, and integrating new patterns into the workers’ daily lives, leaders can efficiently bring about positive change. With the current economical crisis forcing firms and companies to either go down or up, the only way for these organizations to succeed is for leaders to hold change and become accustomed accordingly. People need to see leaders dealing with change so they can have someone to identify with. The book is especially relevant in the current recession. Now is the time to read the book and take action immediately while people still have a crisis that is disrupting the status quo.

As an information-development organization, you may feel true urgency to improve the usability of you information or you may want to increase the efficiency of your operation to make you company’s products more competitive. Be careful of complacently looking inward. The task is not to produce works of art but to support the company’s products. Too often, writer become more interested in the technicalities of writing rather than focusing on customer needs so these are tools, not vain rights. More than ever, one must improve their good organization. Improvements that will be arranged now will be invaluable when the company is back to “full steam ahead” after the recession ends.