Kairos and the Art of Timing

Andrea Belk Olson
3 min readJan 22, 2024

We’ve all heard the term “Chronos” often regarding expensive watches, and the measure of time. But there’s another term for time that’s even more important — Kairos. In Greek, kairos represents a kind of “qualitative” time, as in “the right time”; Chronos represents a different kind of “quantitative” time, as in, “What time is it?” and “Will we have enough time?”.

Kairos means taking advantage of or even creating a perfect moment to deliver a particular message or action. Kairos also refers to crafting serendipity, like when the sun comes out at the end of a romantic comedy after all the conflicts have been resolved.

Kairos is about appropriateness, decorum, symmetry, and balance-awareness of the rhetorical situation or “the circumstances that open moments of opportunity”. It’s the art of timing. Choosing the most fitting, pivotal moment to achieve the desired impact. In effect, striking while the iron is hot.

Business leaders have to make plans to move their organizations forward, but with too much rigidity in those plans — focusing on “Chronos” and the systematic timing of activities — they often miss out on those “Kairos” opportunities, which can amplify or thwart the success of their objectives.

This means truly effective leaders must have a “Kairos mindset”, or the capacity and willingness to abandon a plan when events get in the way. A plan is essential; you cannot ad hoc your entire business strategy. However, a rigid plan, unbending to situations and variables, will prove to be ineffective and likely very costly.

Say a company wants to restructure its sales department yet the head of sales opposes it. In turn, leadership decides on a lengthy and gradual restructuring to ease the transition. Halfway through, the head of sales unexpectedly resigns. A commitment to Chronos would keep the agreed time frame in place. But by applying Kairos, this change is an opportunity, allowing leadership to accelerate the restructure.

Kairos moments are often triggered by an environmental, competitive, or personnel change, but they also might be activated by a cultural and psychological shift within the company. Do not dogmatically stick to a plan’s time frame devised in the calm, comfy chairs of a boardroom. The reality of complicated business decisions will often run away from you. Be willing to pause. Be willing to have a flexible timeframe. Give space for Kairos to be identified and acted upon. It’s the key to making your own luck.

About the Author

Andrea’s 25-year, field-tested background provides practical, behavioral science approaches to creating differentiated, human-focused organizations. A 4x ADDY award-winner, TEDx presenter, and 3x book author, she began her career at a tech start-up. She led the strategic sales, marketing, and customer engagement efforts at two global industrial manufacturers. She now leads a change agency dedicated to helping organizations differentiate their brands using behavioral science.

In addition to writing and consulting, Andrea speaks to leaders and industry organizations worldwide. Please get in touch with Andrea to access information on her book, keynoting, research, or consulting. More information is also available at www.pragmadik.com or . www.andreabelkolson.com

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.



Andrea Belk Olson

Behavioral Scientist. Customer-Centricity Expert. Prolific Author. Compelling Speaker. More at www.andreabelkolson.com