How organisations deal with dilemmas and emergencies

How organisations deal with dilemmas and emergencies – Press & Balance


This is the final part of 3 articles about how organisations deal with dilemmas and emergencies:

Part 1: ‘New research: Organisational responses to dilemmas and emergencies’

Part 2: 6 ways organisations deal with dilemmas

In this post we have a look at the conclusions of this research…

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Press and balance

The researchers found that there are two primary issues organisations face in such situations. Press and balance:

  1. Press. This is the pressure or level of urgency the secondary order tensions, paradoxes and dilemmas places on the organisation to respond.
  2. Balance. This is how equal or not the various secondary order tensions, paradoxes and dilemmas are. If one is more prominent or pressing it can draw the response at the expense of the other issues.

What the researchers found was that different levels of press and balance tended to result in different types of response:

The study looked at the response of the emergency services, police, fire, medical, hospitals, military, government and other agencies and charities to complex situations that required multi-agency solutions to see how they fared.

What they discovered was that the emergency service infrastructures are actually pretty good at designing transcendence responses to these situations. Indeed over 40% of these services’ initial response to such situations is a transcendence response. Selection, segmentation and alternation type responses account for about 50% of the responses to complex situations and a small number of responses were denial (2.26%) and cosmetic (4.84%).

How does your organisation compare to this?

The researchers found that transcendence responses in organisations were significantly more likely when both press and balance were high. Where there was a combination of less press or less balance organisations appear to find this more ambiguous and, as a consequence, were much more likely to formulate an answer to these secondary order tensions, paradoxes and dilemmas with a less than ideal strategic response.


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David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page