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Temporal Structure Patterns

Structures are fixed expectations for certain situations. They focus on the future. Such expectations can have different foci: the expectation that this or that will happen (= factual dimension) or how this one or that one will behave (=social dimension). Much has been written and examined about this by organisational research. Comparatively little attention is and has been given to temporal structure patterns.

Organisations, however, are full of time-related structural expectations: deadlines, road maps, milestones, terms, appointments, planning steps etc. Every organisation must ‘battle’ with the fact that the processes taking place in reality usually no longer correspond with the structures. The ‘disappointment rate’ of temporal expectations is frequently disproportionately higher that those which refer to people or factual topics. Why is this?

To a great extent, it has something to do with the fact that time is much harder to synchronise than the coordinating of people and the factual clarification of topics. The inherent times, and the set expectations of each person, each team, each department and each area, which go with it, are not as visible and documented as people and topics. The resulting problem is called hurrying in every-day language (too little time) and waiting (too much time). The expectations about how large the social or the factual problem will become, if one puts other systems under time pressure or delays them, are, again, very different. For this, there are temporal structure patterns as well. What is punctual? When has one been delayed? How long must one wait? When does one have to give notice that something will take a little longer. When can one send a reminder about something?

On closer inspection, conflicts and dysfunctionalities in organisation, often rest more on different time structures than on social or factual differences. The latter are more often the formation of symptoms arising from the former.