When I was in high-school I played in the pit band. Every year we would play the music for the yearly musical that was put on by the drama club. Over the course of a few months we would learn the entire score and perform for two nights.
For four years it always went the same way. We would practice once to twice a week and kind of glance over the music. Then when there was two weeks left to a dress rehearsal we’d get serious. Suddenly the music started sounding a lot better. Careless mistakes were avoided, and we didn’t miss a beat (pun intended). The day before dress rehearsal we would be in great shape.
Whether it be a product, project, or high school musical, a sense of urgency is important. It’s what keeps everyone on the team sharp and efficient.
Nothing’s really changed since those days in high school playing in the pit band. No matter what I’ve worked on or who I’ve worked with instilling a true sense of urgency is difficult. But there are some tactics that can be used to simulate - as best as possible - a sense of urgency.
Schedule demo days. The earlier and more public the better. Everyone wants to show off their hard work and be recognized for it. Formalizing a demo date gives everyone on the team an objective to work towards to before the “real date”. You can even schedule a few so that you can show progress throughout the course of the project or product development.
Get objective feedback. Again, the earlier the better. No matter how good the vision of the product is, or how you’re excited about working on a product nothing motivates a team like hearing real life objective feedback. If the team hears a customer say that the current version of the product isn’t good you can bet that they’re going to want to fix the product for that customer, and quickly.
Reinforce the vision and raise awareness. When you think you’ve talked about the product enough, that’s probably when you should talk about it some more. A product vision has to be reinforced early and often until everyone understands and can repeat that same vision. By reinforcing the vision, awareness across a team or organization also increases. Soon, it’s not just the team working on the product that’s excited about it, it’s the whole damn company. That’s sure to make any team feel that what they’re working on is urgent (and important).
I’ve found that there is no substitute for the real thing. But simulating it as best as possible does come somewhat close, and leads to far better results. Sometimes, more than just a few days before the product goes live.