Nothing on the face of the earth is as deadly poisonous to a culture of urgency as bureaucracy. Red tape strangles urgency in a death grip. Multiple layers of decision-makers crush initiative under the oppressive weight of indecision. If speed is success, then bureaucracy is failure.
Creating A Culture of Urgency
Creating a culture that allows your top talent to deliver outstanding work with a high sense of urgency requires eliminating every possible impediment to fast action and the free flow of information across all levels of the organization. Successful leaders give their people all the tools, information, and resources they need to excel at their jobs and then get out of their way. To quote my friends at Microsoft, “Stop the insanity.” Stop any meeting, discontinue any report, eliminate any procedure, kill any rule, revamp any process that does not add real value to the organization, and allow people to do their jobs more efficiently, effectively, and quickly.
Imagine if a major organization were to take a handful of their most talented people and put them all in a room for a typical four-hour corporate meeting. They would be tying up tens of thousands of dollars of time and talent in what will most often be an utterly useless meeting. Would you knowingly throw that kind of money away? Of course not. No sane leader would. But they do it every day. If you are not getting significant value from the meeting, cancel it. Or at least cut the meeting length in half. Let people leave the meeting as soon as they complete their part. Do whatever it takes to get people out of pointless meetings to do the actual work of making critical decisions and moving the business ahead quickly.
Fortune 100 Company Case Study
A few years ago, I worked with a Fortune 100 company in which almost every manager I knew had thirty or forty hours of meetings planned per week in addition to their regular work. That is complete lunacy, and everyone in the organization knew it. They sat in meetings, looking at their cellphones. Listened in on the phone (now it would be Teams or Zoom) conferences while trying to get e-mails done and type reports. They spent half a day in a meeting to give a ten-minute presentation. Hours and hours every week, hundreds and hundreds of talented people wasted their time and the company’s money.
Here is what happened to that company. Many talented people who could not stand the frustration of endless stupid meetings quit and went to the competition. The flow of quality information came to a halt. The speed of decisions fell to just below glacial, and this multibillion-dollar company no longer exists. True story.
I am in no way saying that meetings are not necessary. Indeed, they are critical to business success. But only if they are well run, focused, highly productive meetings that stay on the agenda and on time and result in sound decisions, specific actions, and clear accountability. How many meetings like that do you attend a year?
Organizations that embrace a sense of urgency make it easy for people to navigate the structure of the business. Transparency, open-door policies, skip-level meetings, and access to even the highest-level executives are the norm in all successful organizations I have worked with. Nearly every company understands that the old command-and-control, an organization-chart-driven hierarchy of the past, is dead in today’s business culture. Speed, not maniac speed, but a thoughtful sense of urgency, is a key to success.