Leading and organizing the future: Temporality and social practices within a military staff exercise

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


It is the job of the staff organization to plan for the future in a military operation. Situation awareness is required to produce good plans, yet how do organizations promote situation awareness in practice? Could an organization unintentionally also prevent situation awareness from emerging?

This research paper delves into the social practices a staff organization adopts to gain control of its past, present and future during a staff training exercise. It looks into the leadership and organizing practices the staff adopts in its daily work. The study looks at how organizing actualizes in time and how the formal structure and operating policies influence the future planning activities.

The research is based on the author’s experiences from 2016 and 2017 when he participated in the CJSE international crisis management exercise in the role of an ethnographic researcher. An ethnographer follows the organization members in their daily tasks, aiming to gain understanding of how the staff organization works in practice and how the organization members make sense of their work.

The research shows how the organizational practices are premised on both cyclical and linear temporalities. The organization applies cyclical entrainment practices to provide shared daily rhythms for the organization members, and linear sequential practices to coordinate workflows. Furthermore, the research shows how the disparity of formal documents representing past futures and current operational realities representing present futures can create networks of indecision in the organization hindering the planning effort.

In general, the staff organization is organized similarly to industrial organizations: the coordination of knowledge work follows the logic of traditional production planning. Yet, in certain situations these organizing principles may hinder the emergence of collective situation awareness.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationHelsinki
PublisherFinnish Defense Forces International Centre
Number of pages36
ISBN (Print)978-951-25-3023-6
ISBN (Electronic)978-951-25-3024-3
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeD4 Published development or research report or study

Publication series

NameFINCENT Publication Series
PublisherFinnish Defence Forces International Centre
ISSN (Print)1797-8629
ISSN (Electronic)2489-4788


  • 512 Business and Management


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