1. Operatinal Tempo

[Last amended: 20 July 16]


Subject Area:


Organisational Tempo; that is the pace at which the organisation needs to conduct it activities and how this might change.


Issue being addressed:


Organisations do not operate at a single constant tempo. The tempo of operation varies over time and therefore the organisation has to adjust its structure and processes in order to cope with the changed environment. An example of such a change is detailed within literature on crisis management; this describes the crisis cycle as moving from "routine" operations through "high tempo" operations to "emergency" operations and finally returning to "routine" operations post crisis (see: Context; Dimension One - Mental Approach).  Another example comes from commercial airline operations. Here this idea can be seen when they differentiate between normal flight and the "Sterile Zone". The "Sterile Zone" is the zone below 10,000 feet where it is recognised that flight operations are their most precarious. Within this Sterile Zone procedures change to allow only conversations concerning flight operations.


One interviewee from the emergency service stated that he used terminology that enabled him to categorise the complexity of incidents. After translating the terms he used in his native language, we agreed on the terminology of simple, complicated and complex incidents. Simple covered daily operations where a single known drill could be applied. Complicated covered events where a multiple of known drills had to be applied. Complex events required a degree of improvisation to match the existing capabilities to meet the events facing his teams. All organisations will have to make such adaptations; it is just that many will not be aware of them.


Aim of the Research Question:


The aim of this research question is to generate labels that encourage managers to recognise the various tempos operated by their organisation as they adapt to their ever changing operational environment.


From the answer to this question I would wish to collect a wide range of scenarios from which I plan to synthesise the appropriate terminology.




From your perspective within your organisation:

  • What may cause you to change the way and tempo at which you operate? For example: what does a normal day look like, why might you suddenly get busy and what might make you so busy that the organisation is in danger of failing to cope?

  • Describe how your organisation operates differently to cope with the changes of tempo?

  • How might you label these different tempos (states)?

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Risk Governance Management Specialists


[Last amended: 28 July 16]


I think we may be asking the wrong question!


The idea of tempo comes from our experience of crisis. However, in the replies I have had, I now see tempo as being only one dimension of what may be titled “operational instability”.  Feedback to date has produced the following table:


Here we are looking to identify the dimensions of "operational instability" and thereby looking to develop a clearer mental model of this issue. The issue becomes one of how we might see what might  change either over the long-term (evolving), suddenly (crisis) or at some points in between.


New Question


What issues should we think about when considering how the problem we face might change?