Creating a sense of urgency: Why it’s important – and how bingo helped us
Last year, we set ourselves a goal: We wanted to triple our monthly recurring revenue over the course of the year.
By November, we were close – but we hadn’t quite reached the target.
So we did something unusual: We issued our employees what looked like bingo cards. But instead of there being numbers in the squares on the cards, each square contained a target to be met. There were targets for leads, targets for sales, targets for features to be developed – targets for each department to meet within a specific time frame.
The result was a burst of creativity and activity across the whole company. And to our delight, by the end of 2014 we reached our company-wide goal of tripling our monthly recurring revenue for the year.
Every company needs those bursts of activity and creativity. Results happen when you’ve got everybody working together in sync towards a common goal.
This kind of energy comes from feeling a sense of urgency about attaining results. It’s not always easy to create a sense of urgency – a feeling that work has to be done NOW.
In some industries a sense of urgency is part of the structure. Newspapers, for example, have to fill their pages every day. Every morning they start from scratch, and reporters and editors work to inflexible deadlines.
But in a tech firm, it’s harder to create a mindset that supports the idea that everything has to be done as quickly as possible without compromising quality.
Without a sense of urgency, projects can stretch out. A project is not finished today? We can tackle it tomorrow. Or next week. Or next month.
When things drag out, a company can lose its edge. And it can become vulnerable to a competitor that is more dynamic – and hungrier.
That’s why I firmly believe it’s necessary to create a sense of urgency, even if it’s artificial.
It’s all the more necessary because the employees and the company management don’t always view urgency in the same way.
The company leadership and the board of directors have to take a long-term view of things. I look at longer-term plans for the company, and because my eyes are fixed on a more distant horizon, my sense of urgency is often very different from that of our employees.
In Klipfolio’s case, we’re doing well, but we cannot rest on our laurels. There are more and more new entrants into the dashboard space, and while we don’t feel the heat just yet, we have to make sure we keep moving and improving. That is what fuels management’s sense of urgency.
It’s our job to share the vision and set the pace.
The sense of urgency has to be felt by everybody in the organization. To resonate with employees, it has to be meaningful. Employees must understand the vision for the company and see the challenges on the horizon, including competitors.
As a tactic for creating a sense of urgency, the bingo game idea worked well for us.
In our bingo game, every department knew its own goals, as well as the goals for every other department.
People were able to see the big picture, and build off each other’s energy.
The bingo game created the feeling that we were in a race, and focused people on tangible results they could achieve in their own spheres.
Without that feeling – without defined goals, a timeline and the sense we were all working as a team – there would have been less incentive for everyone to pull together. And without everyone pulling together, it’s unlikely we would have met our targets.
The bingo game worked so well, we’re doing it again this year.
Allan Wille is a Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Klipfolio. He’s also a designer, a cyclist, a father and a resolute optimist.
Originally published August 21, 2015, updated Jun, 17 2019