If you work in an environment where everything is urgent, it will definitely be most urgent to maintain focus on real priorities and critical organizational goals. If transparency and meaningful communication about mission central goals are lacking, an organization can be in peril of collapsing across critical activities, risking implosion and loss of organizational significance.
What to do
To gain clarity, it will be necessary to sift through all the many urgent matters and consider the impact and fallout of not getting certain things done today, as compared to later this week, next week, next month, next quarter, or perhaps never. These considerations will include looking at all the factors and conditions contributing to the appearance of urgency for any matter. It may include challenging some of those factors and conditions, and it may include challenging assumptions and declarations from others, including superiors. The most critical and most urgent priority is to engage in these critical discussions to analyze what is really urgent and to organize around those imperatives. In high tension environments, this should not be just a first priority, but the foremost priority.
Drawing on all your leadership skills will be necessary to initiate and lead this type of inquiry. It is to be expected that any initiative that may disrupt organizational habits and established patterns of activity will not necessarily be met with enthusiasm. Initial support by colleagues may, therefore, be feigned and short-lived. Unspoken words can be, “This too shall pass!” Planned disruption is never really welcome, particularly when change could be the result. It is the role of the leader, none-the-less, to create order, inform and communicate and to take the lead.
Triage every day
Factors and conditions may change rapidly due to all manner of external and internal events, so a triage approach can provide a clear view of what particular changes may pose in terms of new risks and/or new actions required. Further, research indicates that updates communicated directly and regularly from managers carries extra weight and importance in the minds of the recipients. It is never a good plan to allow information to simply cascade from level to level leaving it open to possible misinterpretation. This can erode trust and cause worry. When, however, people can see their role in the greater organizational picture, leadership trust and confidence grows.
An effective triage approach will clearly establish what is really urgent at any given time while demonstrating that leadership is open and constant. As a result, trust is enhanced, loyalty bonds grow stronger, and environmental tension is reduced.