Executives tell me all the time: \u201cI want to see more urgency.\u201d\u00a0\nWhen I ask them, \u201cWhat would that look like?\u201d I don\u2019t usually get a very clear answer.\nSometimes it\u2019s that they want to see more accountability from their team, or they want to see more energy. Or they say they are not seeing enough momentum.\nSometimes I think leaders would be more satisfied to just see everyone running around in a panic because that would look more like urgency and make them feel better.\nWhat creates urgency?\nUrgency is natural outcome of crisis or danger.\u00a0But in business, we kind of like it when there is no crisis or danger.\nBut since urgency is not a natural outcome of a calm and well managed initiative, how can you create the urgency you want to see without using fear?\nIt\u2019s actually very simple to create urgency. If you want more urgency, schedule it.\nTime is the enemy of urgency\nThe urgency in a long-term initiative suffers from what feels like an abundance of time at the beginning.\nLet\u2019s just take a simple example and say that your goal is to roll a new system out to field offices.\nSo you have defined your end goal to be that 100 percent of field offices in North America will be using the new system in one year. \nPeople leave the kick-off meeting nodding their heads and thinking, \u201cYeah, that\u2019s important, but we have a year to get it done, so I don\u2019t need to worry about it for a while.\u201d\nWhen you have a task that will take a year, on any Monday early in the process, you kind of still have a year. If you don\u2019t start it for a month, you still have most of the year. But this thinking can repeat over and over again. Suddenly you are 10 months in and still have 12 months of work left to do!\nSo what happens at the beginning is that everyone nods their heads and goes back to work. Nothing changes. It feels like you\u2019ve got plenty of time. There is no urgency.\nThe hazard of 'the middle'\nYou need to realize that this end goal tells you nothing about what you will do during the course of the year to achieve it. I refer to this part of a strategy or transformation as \u201cthe middle.\u201d\nOrganizations invest huge amounts of time, energy and money in defining a strategy, and they are excited about the goals at the end, but then there is this long expanse of time in the middle which is often undefined and uncharted \u2013 and is literally where everything needs to get done!\nThe middle is where initiatives lose momentum and where that sense of urgency everyone felt at the beginning is often lost.\nThe way to combat this is to specifically define things that need to be done throughout the middle.\nCharting the course through the middle\nSo let\u2019s take our example and start defining the middle.\nWork backwards from the goal. Define what you will see at intermediate points throughout the middle.\nFor example for that outcome to be true in a year, what would need to be true nine months out?\n9 months out: The system has been installed at 100 percent of field offices, and user training and implementation of support plans have been scheduled to occur over the next two months.\nFor that to be true 9 months out, what will need to be true 6 months out?\n6 months out: The system has been built, tested internally and rolled out to 10 beta sites. User training and support plans will be designed with beta test input.\nFor that to be true 6 months out, what will need to be true 3 months out?\n3 months out: System design has been completed. Beta sites have signed up and committed resources. Implementation will be done in 2 more months.\nIf that were true 3 months out, that means \u2026\n1 month out: A user advisory board has been formed and inputs have been taken. Requirements have been finalized. The project plan has been resourced. Work can begin.\nBy working backwards to define the timeline of concrete work elements up front, you leave the meeting with checkpoints already defined for 1,3,6 and 9 months out.\nPeople can\u2019t simply just go back to work and feel like they have a year to make it come true. They need to leave the meeting with specific actions that need to start as soon as next week!\nDo you see urgency yet?\nOnce you have a timeline on which you can all see the specific outcomes you need to achieve and work that you will do throughout the middle, then you can ask yourself, \u201cIs this pace fast enough?\u201d\nIf it is, great, if not, tighten up the actions you have placed on the on time line to occur at a faster pace.\nIf you can get your team to buy in to the shorter timeline, and you stay focused on achieving each milestone, you will have created actual urgency\u2014by scheduling it.\nPutting strategy into action\nThis is the process I use over and over again with clients in my strategy into action program. We go from vaguely talking about urgency, to aligning on a timeline that regulates the right amount of urgency by being clear and actionable. It works way better than simply demanding to see more urgency!