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Jan-Åke Törnroos
Åbo Akademi
Jan-Åke Törnroos and
Laurids Hedaa
Copenhagen Business School
Laurids Hedaa

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 17th IMP-conference in Oslo, Norway in 2001.


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The concept of Kairology is derived from the ancient Greek, but largely unknown, god Kairos, whowas assumed to be in control of the right moment, or god of the more contemporary notion ofTiming.This paper is an essay about new avenues for the basis of managerial thinking and theories with atemporal focus. The paper looks specifically at the role of time and timing through event analysis inmanagement theory. First, the impact of change and stability on models and theories in managementare developed. Second the role of temporality, change aspects and timing related to contemporarybusiness environment is highlighted. Third, a perspective of new directions of managerial thinkingwith a temporal focus is developed. Fourth, proposals are made for a new research strategy andmanagerial practice. Kairology is a term denoting the theory of appropriate timing for action indifferentiated managerial situations and contexts. Traditional management theory deals withautonomous actors working in a world of organisational routines. A novel perspective should beconcerned with heteronomous actors in a world of complexity and surprises embedded in a networkof interdependencies. If this is the case we need a new management theory. Managers do in factreact to surprises as new opportunities or threats. They never do this alone; they always discuss,negotiate or experiment with new variations of actions within relevant time-space throughinteraction. Interaction is to move from heteronomy not to full autonomy, but rather to a state ofhomonomy (a neologism for the middle between autonomy and heteronomy, where relevant partnersthrough interaction have arrived to a sort of common understanding for acceptable behavior, i.e.shared rules or norms). We can say that events control man, not the other way around, as generalmanagerial thinking seems to propose. The essence of timing deals with this fact. When managersare timing correctly they can handle or understand events and event trajectories. But appropriatetiming may not be understood apriori, but only recognized aposteriori. Event analysis and timing ofacts in a stream of events can be used as a possible strategy for partial control of company destiny (apre-determined course of events often held to be an irresistible power or agency).