You need to have a sense of urgency

~ a panicked middle-manager

This is what I’ve observed over my career as a manager. When you ask your team for “a sense of urgency”1:

what you’re asking for

  1. is not actionable

  2. betrays a general lack of trust

  3. assumes your team members don’t understand urgency

  4. is not what you really want.

what you’ll earn

  1. Since it’s not actionable, expect no actions. Since it’s not clear, it cannot be measured, and there can be no accountability.

  2. less trust, because of 1).

  3. disrespect, why would people act like adults if they’re not considered like adults?

  4. panic. Since this is vague, expect vaguely what you were expecting.

what I hear

  1. you don’t know how to fix the issue. This generally happens when upper management gets pressure, but doesn’t know what to do about it, so they press general concepts rather than strategy and tactics.

  2. you’re too far removed from the field, don’t know what’s actually happening there, and don’t trust them to do their jobs correctly. You look at the end-result metrics and assume that them being bad can only be the team not working fast enough.

  3. Gerry Weinberg said something in the lines of “everyone gives their best given their personal context, if you think they don’t then you don’t understand their context”. Have you been actually clear about the situation? Explained it like you would explain it to adults, without parables and hyperboles? Have you provided data? Have you been clear about concrete consequences and timelines? If you’re retaining information, please share information instead and trust your team to act like adults.

  4. What you’re asking for is panic. What you want is speed. Speed doesn’t come from panic. Speed comes from practice, cohesion, clear plans, focus, reduced WIP, small batches, reduced queues, and methodical pursuit of value.

what you should do instead

  1. come up with an actionable plan. Hear feedback and collect team’s ideas on how to fix the situation. Consider you might be the issue: issues usually occur because orthodoxy has failed you. Be it that the target is wrong, the execution is wrong, the incentives are wrong, or whatnot. More of the same will only incur more failure. Start by finding what the issue actually is, and fix that.

  2. if you don’t trust your team, fix that first. If you’re too far away from it, maybe get closer.

  3. trust your team to do it right. Be clear on the plan, expectations, dates. If you’re asking for over-time, say it straight ; but before make sure that it will effectively change anything in the situation, and justify that to your team.

  4. see 1), make sure the team is focused on the plan, work on reducing their interferences, protect them from the panic of upper management, measure speed, leave room for innovative ideas, lead by example, be proud of your team members relentlessness and communicate your pride in all direction.


  1. same goes for: “you need to give 200%”, “you need to climb that mountain”, “you should have your hair on fire”.