3 Ways to Create More Strategic Urgency

A businessman is relaxing in an open field complacent and showing no Strategic Urgency

Do You Need to Create Strategic Urgency?
Our high performance research identified complacency as one of the top five strategy execution warning signs.  Often, the most vulnerable time for an organization is when you are at the top of your game.  If you are looking to take your performance to the next level, you should consider creating some strategic urgency.

Why Strategic Urgency Matters
Leaders today cannot afford to get caught flat-footed or miss important market windows of opportunity.  While unchecked or unauthentic strategic urgency can certainly be counterproductive, well-placed strategic urgency is a vital component to amplifying the importance of the desired strategic shifts.   Most change experts believe that 75% of the people affected by change need to believe in both the importance and the urgency of the desired changes.

Where Strategic Urgency Starts
Strategic urgency starts with the leadership team.  While 75% buy-in may be enough for the employees affected by change, we look for 100% commitment from the top.  Leadership alignment is critical to ensure executives consistently reinforce the new direction so their teams remain dedicated to move toward the “new way.”

Three Ways to Create More Strategic Urgency
Breaking through complacency requires an active and honest dialogue across the organization until people understand and believe in the desired strategic direction enough to commit to trying to make them happen.

1. Challenge Your Business Model
Get your leaders together to think through the consequences of various scenarios that may be unlikely to happen but could greatly impact your strategy for success. Conduct a thorough examination of “what if” and “then.”  Consider challenging how you define and execute against areas such as your assumptions regarding:

  • Target clients
  • Target markets
  • Value proposition
  • Competitive advantages
  • Rate of scale
  • Leadership team
  • Talent management
  • Cultural norms
  • Competitive threats
  • Market shifts
  • Level of focus
  • Level of conviction

2. Check in with Dissatisfied Customers
Because almost every company is in the customer-experience business, one of the best ways to heighten strategic urgency is to shine a light on unhappy customers.   Though you can learn about strengths from satisfied customers, lost and unhappy customers often provide early warning signs of bad assumptions or hard times to come.

Your customers have their finger on the pulse of how you are living up to your strategic brand promise.  Use unvarnished feedback from your lost and dissatisfied customers to create urgency for change.

3. Scan Outliers
Often, the biggest strategic disruptions happen on the fringes. For example:

  • LinkedIn, a social media platform, is disrupting learning and recruiting
  • Tesla, a car company, is disrupting battery storage
  • Google, an internet search company, is disrupting mobile phones
  • NetFlix, a DVD company, is disrupting media content and delivery
  • Uber, a ride-sharing company, is disrupting food delivery

Is it possible that the greatest challenge to your business is not from close competitors but from maverick companies looking to disrupt your business model?  It sure seems that Amazon is on a path to disrupt most industries by itself.

Can potential threats from outliers, nearby or connected industries help provide the strategic urgency you need to mobilize the troops?

The Bottom Line
If you want to stay competitive, you cannot afford complacency even in the midst of good times.  Smart leaders continuously test their strategy and underlying assumptions with a mindset toward making strategic adjustments to sustain success.  If you want to create strategic urgency, remember leaders and their teams must believe that the status quo is not as appealing as the desired new direction or plan.

To learn more about creating strategic urgency, download How Strategic Clarity Distinguishes High Performing Leaders

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