Tiki-taka and tabletops: the importance of tempo in internal communications

The general definition of tempo refers to the speed of a motion or activity, and in sport, it can be judged by the rate of movement over a period of time.

Being fans, we understand instinctively how tempo plays an integral part of our sporting world and how it can impact not only the result of one race or match but spells of failure or success.

In football, working with tempo has resulted in some of the most dominant teams on the planet. Perhaps the best example is Tiqui-taca (more commonly referred to as Tiki-taka in English-speaking countries) – a Spanish style of play that centres around short passing, movement, and the diligent manipulation of tempo to maintain possession – that has contributed to vast amounts of silverware heading to FC Barcelona and the Spanish national team.

At the other half, we are always looking at how we combine successful sporting concepts with scholarly management to best support our clients in effective change, and it is fascinating how tempo is rarely explored in the workplace.

Recent research suggests that the natural flow of human communication is in bursts – rapid-fire engagements followed by periods of silence. The effective utilisation of this type of communication is one of the fundamental hallmarks of high-performance teams.

The silent periods are used to block out time for deep work. Identified by Cal Newport, deep work is ‘the ability to concentrate without distraction on a demanding task.’

In his 2016 book, Deep Work, Newport explains how this is becoming harder to attain, yet increasingly valuable, and those who practice and come to master it will thrive.

So, how is it done?

With more of us now working from home, or in a similarly agile fashion, it is critical that we take time to plan our formal meetings, but also create time to have casual conversations with our colleagues.

Informal chats in the workplace have often been referred to as watercooler conversations. We took those moments in our pre-pandemic environment, perhaps over a brew or lunch, for granted. We did not necessarily appreciate how much value they added to team cohesion and the ideation of new projects, and now more effort is needed to ensure these benefits do not fade away.

As previously highlighted in our blog about informal networks, communications are fundamental in enacting change. According to a study conducted by McKinsey & Company (2015), communication contributes the most to a transformation’s success.

That brings us to our three key takeaways:

– Reflect on the tempo of comms within your organisation

– Encourage focused conversation around projects in between periods of deep work

– Be diligent in scheduling informal communication time alongside that