Business Cadence

By Maeve Maddox

The meanings of cadence with which I’m most familiar have to do with poetry and music.

In poetry, cadence refers to rhythmical construction. For example, “Iambic pentameter has a cadence similar to that of common English speech.”

In music and movement, cadence is the measure of rhythm. For example, “The importance of the delayed cadence in Wagner is most easily observed by looking at his use of rests.”

In speaking, cadence is the rise and fall of the voice. For example, “What can be done to improve the cadence of a student [whose speech] sounds very choppy?”

Because rhythm is important to bodily movement, the word cadence has a clear application to sports. In horseback riding, cadence is “is the equal measure or proportion which a horse observes in all his motions when he is thoroughly managed.” In cycling, cadence refers to the speed with which the rider turns the pedals.

Now for a look at the use of the word in the context of business:

Cadence is what gives a team a feeling of demarcation, progression, resolution or flow. A pattern which allows the team to know what they are doing and when it will be done.

The purpose of a cadence is to establish a reliable and dependable capability which demonstrates a predictable capacity. Cadence gives some confidence in the upcoming work when we are triggering rather than scheduling work

[A certain business consultant] worked with our team to ensure a weekly cadence of accountability was established and effectively in place.

As this new use of cadence has not yet made its way into either OED or M-W, I can only guess what it means in these examples. I think it has something to do with making a timetable or a checklist to keep a project or service on track. Perhaps it’s a synonym for organization or routine.

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4 Responses to “Business Cadence”

  • Nick Roberts

    I think the use of cadence in business is another case of biz speak which I define as taking a word out of context and using it to sound innovative or knowledgeable. Too often we are expected to adopt these tortured uses of words out of context as the work of great thinkers instead of pointing out the absurdity of the use of the terms.

    The current penchant for using the word disruption as a positive attribute is another case where a word is twisted into a tortured definition. Is it intended to make the user into a clairvoyant who knows the secrets of the business or, more likely, a way to confuse the listener and lend credence to an empty argument?

  • Curtis

    So, I guess they don’t teach English in business school, right?

  • Steven

    I have always understood and considered this use to be related to a military march (probably a misunderstanding as to what military cadence actually is – the song and its rhythm); it is the rhythm that workers/businesses follow in their activities (similar to routine, as you mentioned).

  • Charles Higginson

    From original entry: “In music and movement, cadence is the measure of rhythm. For example, “The importance of the delayed cadence in Wagner is most easily observed by looking at his use of rests.” ”

    Cadence in music usually refers not to rhythm or tempo, but to a series of chords leading to a resolution or resting state. Delayed cadence creates anticipation and tension in the listener as expectations for resolution are unmet, put off, made to wait, OK now.

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