“Every business needs at least one person who rolls out of bed in the morning thinking about the direction of the business, how the external environment affects it and how the company will react to it,” says Bob Milligan of Dairy Strategies LLC.

 Part of that responsibility as a leader is actually being proactive, not reactive, especially as it relates to change, because as the world around us moves faster and faster, it also changes rapidly. Milligan believes success in this environment requires a change in mind-set to an “Embrace Change + True Urgency = Opportunity” mind-set. Key to this is focusing on what’s important, being proactive in viewing change as an opportunity (“embracing” it) and instilling in everyone a desire to win.

 “A sense of urgency is necessary to all this, but you have to be an exceptional leader in order to create ‘true urgency’ instead of ‘false urgency,’ and create a business and develop employees who are more likely to view change as opportunity,” Milligan adds.

Rare but necessary Pervasive, insidious but not true urgency
Emanates from leadership Created by failures and short-term problems
"Great opportunities and hazards are everywhere." "What a mess this is."
The workforce has a powerful desire to win; focused, determined, informed Everyone is anxious, stressed and often angry; blaming is common
Urgently focused on important activities; fast moving, externally focused decisions; relentless purging of the irrelevant Frenetic activity, people are running around "like chickens with their heads cut off."
We will overcome; do more of what is important and less of what is unimportant We are in trouble; more and more with less and less
Change tends to be viewed as an opportunity Change tends to be viewed as a loss leading to stress

*Adapted from John Kotter’s “A Sense of Urgency”

According to Milligan, taking the following steps is critical to creating a true urgency culture:

  • Don’t just have a vision/direction of your organization, be able to articulate it so others can clearly understand it.
  • Be a leader, rally your teams, encourage everyone to commit to the direction you want to move in.
  • Lead by example, do what you say every time.


“It’s a new year,” Milligan said. “Build your organization to create true urgency and embrace change, so that no matter what comes at you, you’re prepared.”