Some of us in Curriculum have been joking about using a new rating scale based upon The Sphincter Factor. As far as I know the first reference to such a system was in The Abyss, when a character stated that "I got to tell you, I give this whole thing a sphincter-factor of about 9.5." Even without further explanation on the character's part, you understand that it's a good way to rate the stress of a situation.
We're assuming that this is a 10-point scale, with 0 - 2 meaning that a situation is just in a "heads up" or "FYI" status. I'm okay, you're okay...but when we start getting into 3 territory, more curiosity is raised. In the middle range, we've got issues that likely need some attention or perhaps intervention before something bigger happens. It implies a sense of unease about things. Above 7? You're headed into full-blown crisis mode. Something is having a major impact on your ability to function. There's a situation that needs immediate and concentrated attention.
Just think of the possibilities here. You can use it in the subject line of your e-mails to alert the boss. For example "5: Not enough subs available for the conference." Or, as a check-in with participants at meetings. It's a great conversation opener: "What's the sphincter factor on this?" Perhaps you start off with a really tense situation (someone is a 9) and as things go along, hopefully people can unclench a bit and move away from the full blockage end of the spectrum. At the end of the meeting, you want them to be a 2. It's a way to see if you've met your goal. Have the group hold up the fingers representing their personal spot on the scale at a given moment...or even better, write it and hold it up on a card...or use something like those paddles the judges have on Dancing with the Stars. Could be fun, don't you think?