March 24, 2009

Mutating the Virus of Urgency

The other day, I wrote a post introducing the concept of the virus of urgency. In summary the virus of urgency is a phenomenon that occurs in organizations when people need to get something done, but the supporting cast has not historically met the need. Individuals that need to get something done that is of value to the organization will find a way to get what they need, even if that means cultivating a false sense of urgency.

Destroying a mindset that has been ingrained into the fabric of the organization is challenging, and often, not of tremendous value. Instead, it is more valuable to identify how you can mutate the virus in the organization. Change it just enough to really get things done, and it becomes less of a push for people to adopt the idea.

You can actually use the original strain of the virus of urgency, and re-engineer it to better meet the needs of the organization. This is cost effective, and will enable you to provide a better service to your customers and partners. The truth is, there is still a desire for a sense of urgency to exist in our organizations. The challenge is found in ensuring that the sense of urgency that is being cultivated is focused on responding to issues related to the mission and vision that your organization exists for.

A couple of strategies for mutating the virus include the following:

  1. Ask the question, 'When is this needed?' Typically, in an organization that has historically neglected the requests and needs of the customer, the response will be tomorrow. When this response is given, simply be honest and transparent to your customer, and explain that you cannot address the issue by tomorrow, but do provide a time that you will be able to provide what they are seeking. As a courtesy, make certain that your customer agrees to the time line given, and then, be sure that you provide what you promise by the agreed upon date, if not sooner. Set the expectation and then deliver. If you truly find that you will not meet the deadline, keep your customer informed early and often so that they are not surprised when the date of delivery arrives and the hopes that they had are dashed to the ground!
  2. If it's broken, fix it! If there is a problem that is preventing something from working correctly, get on it and get the problem resolved. If you cannot address a true emergency, your customers will not trust that you will follow through on the long term promises that you are making.
  3. Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more. Keep your customers informed of the status of things as you are working on them. Try to avoid becoming the black hole for projects, where something is requested, and then something is delivered. Challenge your customers, invite them to be a part of the solution, and encourage innovation. Allow them to own the solution. Your role should be primarily focused on enabling your customer to get the job done that they have been designed for.
This is not a comprehensive list by any means, but it is a common sense place to start. Sadly, too many organizations lack following through on these simple, yet powerful concepts. By beginning to apply these three concepts, you will gain respect from your customers again, and the organization will be better able to fulfill the obligations, commitments, and mission that it has been commissioned for.

Transparency, communication, accountability, and a servant heart go a long way to earning back the trust of your customers.

Simple, yet often overlooked.

No comments: