Sub-theme 14: [SWG] The Role of Temporality and Coordination in Extreme Contexts

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Samer Faraj
McGill University, Canada
Daniel Geiger
University of Hamburg, Germany
Anja Danner-Schröder
TU Kaiserslautern, Germany

Call for Papers

The aim of the sub-theme is to explore how temporality and coordination is practiced, and shapes practice in extreme contexts. Issues of temporality are inherently associated with extreme context research since much of what refers to crises, disasters and accidents requires a timely response to mitigate harmful outcomes. Organizations operating in these contexts are sometimes even called fast-response organizations for they embody as a core organizing principle the recognition that errors can be calamitous and as a result are organized to ensure safety, resilience, and rapid decision making (Faraj & Xiao, 2006; Klein, 1999). Decision-making under time pressure involves a rapid switch between cognition and action, a notion that goes beyond traditional concepts of bounded rationality and which has just recently been understood as following a logic of tact (Kornberger et al., 2019). But whilst it has been studied how decision-makers incrementally engage in decisions in walking by sight, the temporal notion of tact and the role of time pressure in decision-making in crisis situations has so far been less well explored.
Likewise, studies of disasters and crisis management have shown that in response to disaster temporary organizations form and are formed to mitigate immediate crisis (Danner-Schröder & Müller-Seitz, forthcoming; Majchrzak et al., 2007). These temporary forms of collaboration that involve a large range of actors that quite often have not been collaborating before rely on the emergence of swift trust and the fragmentation to different perspectives of disaster coordination to individual organizations (Wolbers et al., 2018). Whilst these studies of temporal organizations in disaster response have explored important antecedents for successful coordination, the role of time in temporal coordination has largely been treated as an independent variable and has not been the topic of explicit attention and theorizing. Instead, social entrainment theory suggests that organizations entrain themselves to powerful external pacers that provide orientation for the timing of their internal activities (Ancona et al., 2001). In extreme contexts, however, such external pacers might be disrupted and pre-existing temporal structures of normalcy will not be applicable anymore, calling organizations to thrive for temporal autonomy and establish novel temporal structures rapidly. Research on time and temporality has convincingly argued that time is not an objective dimension, but instead through their everyday actions, actors produce and reproduce temporal structures which in turn shape the temporal rhythms of their practices (Orlikowski & Yates, 2002).
At the same time, crisis and catastrophes have their own temporality, presenting actors with sometimes competing temporal demands and urgencies; some crisis happen very abrupt and appear ‘out of the blue’ whereas other crisis are so called slow onset disasters that culminate slowly and expand over prolonged periods of time (Darkow, 2019; Oliver et al., 2017). In some cases, well-honed responses cannot be put in place due to equivocal and unshared information (Schakel et al., 2016). Likewise, short term crisis relief actions sometimes have devastating long term effects which calls actors to have the short- and long-term effects of their decisions and practices in mind. Hence, actors might form different past-present-future event structures after a crisis (Danner-Schröder, 2020) Through these discussions we want to inform recent debates in management and organization studies in relation to processes and practices in i.e. organizational routines and temporary organizations.

Hence, suggested topics of this sub-theme include, but are not limited to:

  • The emergence of temporary organizations in disaster response

  • Condensing and expanding time related to events

  • How emergent crises and events unfold over time

  • Forms of organizing to respond to crises

  • The role of critical events/moments in the development of crises

  • Constructions of time and urgencies in extreme contexts

  • The construction of boredom or prolonged periods of stress and tensions in operating in extreme contexts

  • How time pressure and unshared information distorts coordination and fast response

  • Emergence of temporal structures and temporal autonomy in extreme contexts



  • Ancona, D.G., Goodman, P.S., Lawrence, B.S., & Tushman, M.L. (2001): “Time: A new research lens.” Academy of Management Review, 26 (4), 645–663.
  • Danner-Schröder, A. (2020): “Focusing on and backgrounding events simultaneously: The past–present–future relationship of the Great East Japan Earthquake.” Journal of Management Inquiry, 29 (1), 92–110.
  • Danner-Schröder, A., & Müller-Seitz, G. (forthcoming): “Temporal co-dependence between temporary and permanent organizing: Tackling grand challenges in the case of the refugee crisis in Germany.” Research in the Sociology of Organizations.
  • Darkow, P.M. (2019): “Beyond “bouncing back”: Towards an integral, capability‐based understanding of organizational resilience.” Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 27 (2), 145–156.
  • Faraj, S., & Xiao, Y. (2006): “Coordination in fast-response organizations.” Management Science, 5 2(8), 1155–1169.
  • Klein, G. (1999): Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  • Kornberger, M., Leixnering, S., & Meyer, R.E. (2019): “The logic of tact: How decisions happen in situations of crisis.” Organization Studies, 40 (2), 239–266.
  • Majchrzak, A., Jarvenpaa, S.L., & Hollingshead, A.B. (2007): “Coordinating expertise among emergent groups responding to disasters.” Organization Science, 18 (1), 147–161.
  • Oliver, N., Calvard, T., & Potočnik, K. (2017): “Cognition, technology, and organizational limits: Lessons from the Air France 447 disaster.” Organization Science, 28 (4),729–743.
  • Orlikowski, W.J., & Yates, J. (2002): “It’s about time: Temporal structuring in organizations.” Organization Science, 13 (6), 684–700.
  • Schakel, J.-K., van Fenema, P.C., & Faraj, S. (2016): “Shots fired! Switching between practices in police work.” Organization Science, 27 (2), 391–410.
  • Wolbers, J., Boersma, K., & Groenewegen, P. (2018): “Introducing a fragmentation perspective on coordination in crisis management.” Organization Studies, 39 (11), 1521–1546.

Samer Faraj holds the Canada Research Chair in Technology, Innovation, and Organizing at the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University in Montréal, Canada. He is Head of the research group on Complex Collaboration and serves as Director of the Faculty’s PhD program. He studies how complex collaboration is sustained and innovation emerges in a variety of settings such as: trauma care, intensive care units, emergency departments, urgent care clinics, first response teams, open source, and online communities.
Daniel Geiger is Professor for Organization Studies at the University of Hamburg, Germany. His research focuses on the question how organizations deal with unexpected, extreme events with a particular focus on routines, coordination practices and temporality. Daniel’s research has been published in ‘Organization Science’, ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Organization’, among others.
Anja Danner-Schröder is an Assistant Professor of Management Studies at the TU Kaiserslautern, Germany Her main research interest is the dynamics of organizational routines and coordination practices in the context of high-reliability organizations. She conducted ethnographic studies with the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (“Technisches Hilfswerk”), Firefighting Units in Hamburg, Düsseldorf and Frankfurt, and an Emergency Ward of a German state hospital. Moreover, she has done research in the earthquake-stricken areas of Sendai and Ishinomaki, Japan. Her work has been published in ‘Organization Science’, ‘Journal of Management Inquiry’, and ‘Journal of Competences, Strategy & Management’.
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