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A Sense of Urgency

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  1,637 ratings  ·  122 reviews
Most organizational change initiatives fail spectacularly (at worst) or deliver lukewarm results (at best). In his international bestseller Leading Change, John Kotter revealed why change is so hard, and provided an actionable, eight-step process for implementing successful transformations. The book became the change bible for managers worldwide.

Now, in A Sense of Urgency,
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published August 5th 2008 by Harvard Business Review Press (first published 2008)
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Gene Babon
Oct 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: leadership
A Sense of Urgency is my fourth and final recommendation for best business book of 2008. The other three were as follows:

What Got You Here Won't Get You There
Never Eat Alone
Launching a Leadership Revolution (Best Business Book of 2008)

One of the author's earlier efforts was the fable Our Iceberg is Melting. A Sense of Urgency provides substance to this fable.

Creating a sense of urgency is the first of eight steps that leaders in any organization need to master in order to improve business
Feb 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
simple steps, good stories to illustrate the lessons. tactic 2 "behave with urgency everyday" was the one I responded to most
May 23, 2013 rated it liked it


True urgency focuses on critical issues. It is driven by the deep determination to win, not anxiety about losing. Many people confuse it with false urgency. This misguided sense of urgency does have energized action, but it has a frantic aspect to it with people driven by anxiety and fear. This dysfunctional orientation prevents people from exploiting opportunities and addressing real issues.
A big reason that a true sense of urgency is rare is that its
Dr. Kat
Oct 11, 2018 added it
Shelves: business
I appreciate that the writing in this book was organized and clear, it made for an easier time to flip back and forth between higher level structure and immersed in the later chapters detailing significance of the tactic described. It was a pretty straightforward read.

I liked the advice to the reader about not getting confused with similar looking behaviors, as true sense of urgency should provide relief rather than anxiety if proper actions are taken to resolve matters. I also like the multiple
James Keough
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
Very long-winded way of emphasizing the importance of having a sense of urgency, and the repercussions of not having a sense of urgency. Seems like a bunch of common sense (pardon the pun), or a duh, when it comes to the examples presented in the book. Not sure I could have read this cover to cover, so thankful this was an audio-book.
Michael Culbertson
Fluffy. Probably would have been better as a HBR article or two. Leading Change felt like it had more substantial content. In A Sense of Urgency, Kotter does clarify that the opposite of a sense of (true) urgency is not always complacency: Sometimes, organizations are beset by false urgency, which manifests as frenetic activity without producing any real movement. True urgency means always asking, "What can be done right now to move the work forward?" This does not always mean that every ...more
Grant Cousineau
May 03, 2019 rated it liked it
It's a compact book with an important message for businesses: complacency kills growth, frantic actions can be devastating, but a sustained sense of urgency is critical in spurring long-term growth. It all makes sense, and Kotter supplies a lot of testimonials from anonymous businesses to support this argument. However, it felt like this book was made to be digestible for hurried types (urgent people, I suspect). There's enough to get a foothold in the concepts, like how complacency is natural ...more
Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
'Orchestrating and maintaining positive momentum' would be a phrase that sums up the entire book, but that in itself makes it sound very boring. However this book via the examples explored throughout the book brings to light on how important it is to maintain a sense of true urgency to achieve solid goals that will compound over a period of time.

A wonderful book which came into my life in the time I really needed it. The book is an easy read and the language also flows well. Some might find the
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this business book with an education lens, and it fit perfectly. Professor Kotter outlines a very succinct case for why - and how - we need to be urgent for the most pressing issues effecting us. Im a teacher, so I read this and substituted many words of business like corporation with district, and customers with students/families, and the ideas (he calls them tactics) are no less powerful. If youre curious about how to be more effective - to truly work smarter, not harder, and if youre ...more
Jordan Munn
Aug 16, 2018 rated it liked it
This book could easily be pared down to a 10-page article (I'm assuming it started life as an article anyway). And it tends to say the same thing over and over in different, increasingly emphatic corporo-speak ways. It gets real alpha at times. And yet, despite my peeves with it, it's still a solid, easy-to-read book with some ideas and suggestions worth serious consideration. I'm glad I read it.
Dwayne A Milley
May 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Whether youre n the midst of change or not, this is a great read (because if youre not in the midst of change, youre not paying attention, because everything is changing).

Its a quick read - about three hours. And its very informative with very helpful tools and instructions to create and maintain a sense of urgency in your work to keep momentum up.
Scott Couchenour
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes its good to reflect on a point because theres so much more richness to be derived. Kotter does that in this book. He goes back to point #1 of 8 points in his book Leading Change and digs deeper.

A sense of urgency is absolutely necessary when changing for good. Kotter deals with the topic adequately.
Apr 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
Discussed difference between urgency, complacency and false urgency. Did not care for his writing method. Gave me anxiety thinking that after an urgent issue is dealt with, you need to focus on the next issue or create another urgent matter. I think there are times when you should just stop and think about the situation.
Dec 16, 2018 rated it liked it
This books goes to the heart of what causes a lot of successful organisations to become obsolete. In one word - complacency. While Kodak and Blockbuster are sadly poster children of this phenomenon, there are teams, departments and organisations that fail to realise their potential because of becoming complacent.
Arfan Ismail
Dec 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting book with some insightful points. I would recommend it to anyone who is leading change in any organisation. The central point is how to create urgency with some very specific tactics you can use, including dealing with no-no's, those folks we all run into.
Justinas Lapienis
Mar 13, 2020 rated it liked it
A very fine book w/ extremely valuable first couple of chapters. Chapters on addressing the urgency and rallying co-workers I guess were valuable, but I struggled to get any significant take outs that I would feel strong in replicating.
Mike Studdard
Sep 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Well documented with examples of how important urgency is today and tomorrow. Author gives rules to create a sense of urgency in ourselves and in groups and companies. Many of the rules are intuitive and a few come from the authors vast experience in consulting. ...more
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really details urgency vs. just frantic actions. Loved all the examples and comparisons. Well written; easy read. Gives you the ability to use concepts on an of your lifes challenges. Spends lots of time explaining complacency which was very helpful. ...more
Feb 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: work
Makes valid points about urgency.
Gives many examples.
A little too much expounding , but that is necessary to get simple points across, as people are quick to dismiss simple points.
Jeffrey Potter
Change is inevitable, and if you're not ready to deal with it you'll be left behind like Blockbuster.
Jan 28, 2020 marked it as to-read
Bill Duey 01/28/20
Ric McCormick
Feb 15, 2019 rated it liked it
A short read with useful case studies that builds on his previous books but focuses on the beginning of the change journey. Would recommend reading after Leading Change and Heart of Change.
Jacob Rigos
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Addresses urgency in complacent companies and has great examples of how it has happened but doesn't have sufficient examples of how to continually remove complacency
Erica Johnson
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: boss-booklist
This book was fine. I understand the point the author is getting at. I would have appreciated more specific examples and less fluff.
Farooq Mazhar
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: strategy
I finished "A sense of urgency" with Leading Change, which is also written by John Kotter.
Jun 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Too much beating around the Bush. Lacks clear and driving message or summary.
Dec 30, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: business, 2013
In Leading Change, Kotter laid out the 8 stages of how to lead change. The connection between this book, A Sense of Urgency, and that book is that the first stage in the change process is, "Establishing a sense of urgency."

Establishing this sense of urgency - which Kotter defines as, "a gut-level determination to move and win, now" - is important enough to warrant a book all on its own because change efforts most often fail because change leaders "did not create a high enough sense of urgency
Anthony Deluca
Mar 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A Sense of Urgency
By: John P. Kotter
Read: September 2009
Reviewed: November 2009
Copyright: 2008

A Sense of Urgency is the second book I have read by Kotter. The first was Leading Change which was written about 11 years prior. A Sense of Urgency builds upon a subset of the content from Leading Change.

Kotter starts out by comparing a sense of urgency to complacency and false urgency. Often in business people become complacent when success has been had. Even if there is a brief sense of urgency, due
Tony Vynckier
Jun 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
A Sense of Urgency is a book that is needed in today's times as a true sense of urgency can make the difference between faiture or survival and long term success in today's economy.
Executives need to recognize the difference between Urgency and change. Urgency creates a motivating force on results and teaming. Change is imposed from above, the subject of skepticism and Dilbert cartoons.

A sense of urgency compels people to try and make some solid progress every day.
I recommend this book to any
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: leadership
Apparently I needed to create a sense of urgency to read Sense of Urgency! This sat on my shelf for over a year! Given we're due to teach Kotter this spring and given one of my students just read it for independent study, I thought I should get started.

The book makes helpful distinctions between complacency, false urgency and true urgency within our organizations, discussing the signs and effects of each. The author defines urgency as "the determination to win and move, now". Four tactics for
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John P. Kotter, world-renowned expert on leadership, is the author of many books, including Leading Change, Our Iceberg is Melting, The Heart of Change, and his latest book, That's Not How We Do It Here!. He is the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus at the Harvard Business School, and a graduate of MIT and Harvard. He is co-founder of Kotter International, a change management ...more

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