Reflective Urgency: Critical Thinking AND Acting Quickly

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Dialectical Enquiry - Dialectics > Best Practices > Reflective Urgency: Critical Thinking AND Acting Quickly

Reflective Urgency: Critical Thinking AND Acting Quickly
Anneke Zwart, Student (University), Netherlands, Moderator
The best way to respond depends on the situation.
Responding (too) quickly to particular situations bears the risk of overseeing important information that could generate collateral damage(s) throughout the process.
Responding (too) slowly diminishes the above mentioned risk. However, in this case you might miss opportunities that need a quick reaction or you might get caught flat-footed.

The concept of ‘reflective urgency’ refers to the ability to consciously but rapidly reflect to the situation, combining reacting quickly with thinking critically.
Sostrin (2017) developed three different strategies that help you to practice reflective urgency:
  1. IDENTIFY YOUR URGENCY TRAPS: first of all, you need to identify the things that make you act – often unconsciously - in a counterproductive way when you’re under pressure. Common traps include:
    - Multitasking while you actually are working on something that needs full attention.
    - Saying yes to new projects that will costs so much of energy that wisely having said no would have been a better choice.
    Such traps hinder you to reflect on your decisions and actions, which ultimately lead to counterproductive decision making.
  2. FOCUS ON THE RIGHT PRIORITIES: Another issue within the urgency trap is that, instead of focusing on the work that has the highest priority, one focuses on less important work, because it is more fun or because one is just better in doing it (compare: Time Management. It is important to thoughtfully assess and reflect your work so as to critically choose the highest priorities.
  3. AVOID EXTREME TILTS: As already mentioned, it is often not efficient to act in a way that is too close towards one of the extremes. Try to avoid this by critically evaluating your daily responsibilities and each different situation, and consciously choose the most effective balance of the elements of reflection and urgency.
Consciously taking the above steps will help you to practice reflective urgency. It helps you to quickly take decisions and act upon various situations without sacrificing critical thinking.

Source: Sostrin, J. (2017) “How to Act Quickly without Sacrificing Critical Thinking” Harvard Business Review

Reflective Urgency is a Key Skill for Managers
Jaap de Jonge, Editor, Netherlands
Thanks Anneke for sharing this article.
Understanding "reflective urgency" is important for all of us as being managers.
Because as a manager, you should not neither take actions too quickly (based on your personal gut feeling, immediate signals, etc.), nor should you get stuck in endless reflections (paralysis by analysis).
In my opinion, the higher you rank in the management hierarchy, the more your focus should shift from quick action to more comprehensive, critical thinking. This is one reason why we typically find older people in senior management positions.

Reflective Morality
Martin Sanders, ICT Consultant, Netherlands, Member
The reflectiveness need in an urgency and target-driven society or company would ultimately drive us to solutions that are closer to root cause resolution instead of band aid fixes. Reflectiveness is not just the combination of even more spreadsheets into a new decision, but there is a close relation to literacy, maturity, sustainability, compliance and morality. Right?
Agility, becoming quicker and more dedicated (ruthless?) then your competitor, short term target focus, flexible mission statements, status anxiety: all of these mechanisms link morality to an economic reality.
Reflective urgency can not be analyzed in a clean laboratory environment. Strategies like "Focus on the right priorities" only work in a restricted discourse (e.g. the monthly target presentation); as soon as the discourse is extended to for example the environment, the rules, the price, the language and the required proof change. Does reflectivenes require the ability to switch off morality if the discourse requires it?

Reflective Urgency is a Contingency Factor in Implementing Long Term and Short Term Planning
D P BABU, Strategy Consultant, India, Member
The need for reflective urgency arises when there is a clash between long and short term decision-making.
One has to be cautious about being carried away when there is a contingency situation requiring reflective urgency. One may be tempted to take a hasty decision to achieve short term goals, but this may result in uncertainty on long term goals and even in a total deviation from the strategic objectives.

Reflective Urgency: Focus on Performance
Jean-Marc Guillemette, Canada, Member
Reacting quickly and making worthwhile decisions requires "living" (i.e. understanding and appreciating) our performance requirements. Effective organizations (and their departments) identify essential performance requirements and focus on achieving them. These requirements state what must be done to be socially relevant, viable and successful.
When managing and improving performance becomes embedded in our thinking, it creates the reflex of first "protecting" performance, i.e. setting boundaries to quickly assess how a decision may affect it. Anything that contradicts or prevents performance can be quickly set aside.

Relective Urgency: How to Balance Slow to Respond and Quick to React
Gandhi Heryanto, Management Consultant, Indonesia, Premium Member
In addition to the 3 strategies developed by Sostrin to practice reflective urgency, we might also consider the manner in which we are making the decisions, because they affect the way we think, namely:
1. The difference between RESPONDING AND REACTING. Responding is more likely to choose prudently, how speed plays into the situation. While when we're reacting in a crisis or emergency situation we would logically need to react or operate quickly.
2. THINKING FAST AND SLOW. These two systems that the brain uses to process information are the focus of Nobelist Daniel Kahneman. Fast and slow thinking could help us find more rational solutions to problems that we face:
- Usually fast thinking will work automatically when we experience distress.
- Then slow thinking works to support more detailed and specific processing that may solve the problem of the moment. This is how your thinking runs fast initially and then slows down, letting the slow thinking take control.
To react or respond, fast and slow is another way of practicing reflective urgency.

Reflective Urgency? Maintain Sight of the Big Picture
Gregory Johnson, Coach, United States, Premium Member
Interesting discussion of common behavioral reactions.
While reading the interesting responses I was struck with the question, "What is the Mission" and "What is OUR Purpose".
A discipline that leaders should incorporate in their persona is maintaining sight of the big picture, and that would be the purpose and mission of the organization.
When we get caught up in the cycle of reaction/response without first making reference to the larger agenda of outcome or purpose, the topic or energy of the moment become mere activities, possibly disconnected to the larger agenda.
When applied theorist like Dr. Cooperrider suggest the application of Appreciative Inquiry, we first look at our purpose and big picture.
With Dr. Kotter's Organizational Dynamics, we see a system of interventions based on active knowledge and communications.
These are just a couple of growth mindset resources for leaders and managers, versus the reaction or reflective cycle. Let's reflect on the big picture.

Reflective Urgency: Critical Thinking AND Acting Quickly
Derek Wogu, CEO, Nigeria, Member
Very interesting topic and thought provoking responses.
I have gone through the great responses above and wish to add that reflective urgency should be driven by performance expectations and competencies:
As we know, investors have high expectations and managers/leaders should keep development of relevant competencies on the front burner to meet those ever increasing expectations.
In every business decision, effective time management is of essence but one must also make sure that the decision is skewed towards the assessed risks and sensitivities to be sure that quick decisions that would lead to major financial losses or damage to the organization's reputation are avoided.

Training for Reflective Urgency
Maurice Hogarth, Consultant, United Kingdom, Premium Member
There are similarities to giving immediate medical aid and to military fire-fight situations. The key factor is ‘training’ for the way to react to any forthcoming situations. Training to assess the situation and options and then to respond (NOT react) appropriately. Training that is ‘drilled’ in, so that the decision as to the best balanced response is almost at the level of our autonomic nervous system.
A key factor to consider in higher management is that in there never is only ONE RIGHT answer. There often are several possible answers leading to a more or less equally acceptable outcome. Repetitive training and experience (development) in similar situations will enable a data-bank of knowledge to be formed that will enable the Best Balanced Decision to be taken on the basis of the information available at the time that the decision needs to be taken.
First, the ability to read / diagnose the situation quickly is important; then to make and take (decisiveness) the Best Balanced Decision i.e. the one that obtains the best balance of pros versus cons.

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